Roundabout Theatre Company
Todd Haimes, Artistic Director
Harold Wolpert, Managing Director
Julia C. Levy, Executive Director
Sydney Beers, General Manager
In association with Ryan Murphy
Jessica Lange, Gabriel Byrne
Michael Shannon, John Gallagher, Jr.
Long Day’s Journey into Night
(Long Day’s Journey into Night Website)
By Eugene O’Neill
Directed by Jonathan Kent
With: Colby Minifie
American Airlines Theatre
227 West 47th Street
Set Design: Tom Pye
Costume Design: Jane Greenwood
Lighting Design: Natasha Katz
Sound Design: Clive Goodwin
Hair & Wig Design: Tom Watson
Dialect Coach: Stephen Gabis
Fight Director: J. David Brimmer
Production Stage Manager: Peter Lawrence
Production Management: Aurora Productions
Casting: Jim Carnahan, CSA, Carrie Gardner, CSA
“Long Day’s Journey into Night” General Manager: Denise Cooper
Director of Marketing & Audience Dvpt.: Robert Sweibel
Director of Development: Lynne Guggenheim Gregory
Adams Assoc. Artistic Director: Scott Ellis
Founding Director: Gene Feist
Press: Polk & Co.
Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
May 1, 2016 Matinee
The Roundabout Theatre Company’s new production of Eugene O’Neill’s Long Day’s Journey into Night, a four-act, almost four-hour play, with four lead actors, at American Airlines Theatre, brought out some of the most riveting, fully-fleshed drama I’ve experienced this season. Jonathan Kent, Director, has set this expansive stage, evoking one full day in 1912 at the Tyrone family’s summer home on the Connecticut seacoast, in dark, worn, heavy furniture, rear and front sheer, white curtains, an offstage, barely used, back dining room, and shuttered, interior windows, through which we hear distant fog horns and the ever-lapping tide. Jessica Lange is the mother, Mary, Gabriel Byrne is the father, James, Michael Shannon is the elder son, James, Jr., called Jamie, and John Gallagher, Jr. is Edmund, the younger son. These Tyrones make a tortured family, with individual and communal histories of, in no particular order, whiskey addictions (the three men), morphine addiction (Mary), tuberculosis (Edmund), addiction to prostitutes (mainly Jamie), long ago loss of a baby (Mary and James), insults, recriminations, remorse, ennui, loneliness, yearning, obsessive stinginess (James), and fear of death (just their own). Monologues are self-obsessed, laced with hurtful asides, depending on who’s in the room, and dialogues are often parallel monologues, self-aggrandizing and self-comforting, at the expense of the other speaker,
Mary has recently “recovered” at a sanitarium from her morphine habit (a drug she had been prescribed, when young, for a painful affliction), or so her family is led to believe. Yet, she wanders to the spare room upstairs, like a living ghost on the stairs, and her family suspects she’s already hooked again, their silent gazes magnifying their disappointment. James, an actor, who purchased rights long ago to a single stage role, is now filled with self-hate for squandering his talent, when he could have been renowned for versatility on the stage. James also owns numerous properties, which fell into disrepair, and he refuses to sell them, or even improve this very cottage that squeaks and rattles and leaks. Jamie makes a living in theater, thanks to his father’s connections, but his only joys and relationships are found in the bars and red-light houses. Jamie does show a measure of love for Edmund and concern for his health, but he’s too physically and psychically spent with women and booze to stay alert long enough to help anyone, or even finish a conversation with wide-open eyes. That is, unless it’s a family fight, then all bets are off. Edmund, who may have been written in as the autobiographical equivalent of a young Eugene O’Neill, is the most sympathetic character here, wheezing, coughing, trying to survive, and being forced to visit the most corrupt doctor in town, one whose fees satisfy James. Edmund seems to just want some l…., oh, that’s elusive here.
As Mary, Ms. Lange glowingly exudes the triumph and tragedy of survival and emptiness, at once. When, for a brief moment, Colby Minifie, as Cathleen, the Irish maid, finally comes center stage, she joins Mary for some secret whiskey, as they perform the family task of adding water to the bottle so James doesn’t suspect any loss. Their laughter and confidences are so refreshing, until the audience realizes that Mary just returned from the drugstore with her soothing drug. When Mary arrives in the play’s final moments, carrying her faded wedding gown from the attic, she seems like a sleepwalking apparition. As James, Mr. Byrne is magnetic, mesmerizing, authentic. He’s a superb actor I’d not before experienced. He seems so longing for Mary to return to the youthful romantic he fell in love with, and so longing for Mary to want him, instead of her drug, but, alas, he’s the victim of blinding reality. As Jamie, Mr. Shannon often appears as the most lost, as he’s still young and healthy enough to muster the energy to fight his way to success, but he’d have to escape the scoring suffocation and self-defeating addictions of the Tyrones. And, as Edmund, Mr. Gallagher is torn, but mostly calm, like the center of the storm. He faces his fate with bravery, transcending the minutiae of his family’s painful histories, those of the past and those that are fast making their way to the past.
Long Day’s Journey into Night was written in 1941-42, but not published until 1956, after O’Neill’s death. It was produced that year in Sweden, then in Boston, and then on Broadway at the Helen Hayes Theatre, winning a Pulitzer Prize for Drama and a Tony Award for Best Play. Throughout the four-hour production, at today’s matinee, the audience remained captivated. Jonathan Kent has directed to maximize each character’s particular sense of inner torture and need, with gripping gestures and nuanced vocal shifts in tone and stability. Tom Pye’s set looks like a living mausoleum, dark and stuffy, with signs of former life. Jane Greenwood’s costumes are perfectly attuned to early 20th century New England, with a sense of refinement and wear and tear. Natasha Katz’ lighting is especially effective in illuminating the unused family dining room, with images of silver and porcelain waiting, uselessly, to be used, even after the maid announces dinner. Kudos to the cast, and kudos to Eugene O’Neill.