Eugene O’Neill’s “Long Day’s Journey Into Night” is classic American tale of a dysfunctional family caught in the throes of addiction.
The Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award-winning play is being staged at the Guthrie Theater for the first time, and runs through February 23.
Critics give this production – directed by Guthrie’s Joe Dowling – high marks for deftly handling a dark topic while still keeping the pace brisk and the humor and humanity present.
John Skelley (Edmund Tyrone) and Peter Michael Goetz (James Tyrone) in the Guthrie Theater’s production of Long Day’s Journey into Night, by Eugene O’Neill
Photo by Michael Brosilow
…Dowling uses a script that has been nipped and tucked. The result is that a show that usually runs four or more hours checks in at just under three. Dowling achieves this compression by pacing and by having his outstanding acting company occasionally deliver lines atop each other.
Surprisingly, nothing feels lost. The production is conducted less for the solos, even though the cast is commendable, than for the effect of an ensemble that delivers at the top of their form.
It’s nervewracking to watch Mary Cavan Tyrone anxiously wring her arthritic hands and fret about whether or not her hair looks okay. You want to run to her, gently take her by the shoulders, sit her down, and tell her to stop, just stop. Nobody is out to get you. Nobody wants anything but good things for you. And can you please, please, stop worrying?
…It’s no mystery why O’Neill’s heart-wrenching drama won the 1957 Pulitzer Prize for Drama and 1957 Tony Award for Best Play (as well as another Tony in 2003 for Best Revival of a Play). The story is one with which almost anyone can identify, whether you admit it or not: a family of four is simultaneously torn apart by one another’s vices and held together by that strange, unidentifiable bond that only blood can create.
John Skelley (Edmund Tyrone) and Helen Carey (Mary Cavan Tyrone) in the Guthrie Theater’s production of Long Day’s Journey into Night, by Eugene O’Neill
Photo by Michael Brosilow
Although “Long Day’s Journey Into Night” is one of the classics of American theater and its author, Eugene O’Neill, is depicted on the side of the Guthrie, this is the first time the theater has ever performed this tough/tender play. And they have done it proud. The action may, initially, be overwhelmed by John Lee Beatty’s whole lotta set, but the riveting production captures the play’s eloquence, pain and — most surprising — humor (in fact, the first sounds we hear in the director Joe Dowling’s attentive production are laughter and Edmund’s ominous cough, both of which hang over the next three hours).
The difficulty with this play is to dramatize the disconnect without alienating the audience, too; if the characters don’t care, why should we? Ah, but they do. And this is the tragedy of addiction. We know they can love. Their struggle is with their stunted ability to live as if they do.
Have you seen the Guthrie Theater’s production of “Long Day’s Journey Into Night?” If so, what did you think? Share your review in the comments section.