Corrections or additions?
This article by Simon Saltzman was prepared for the May 28, 2003 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.
Broadway: `Long Day’s Journey’
The importance of director Robert Falls’ stunning staging
of Eugene O’Neill’s autobiographical masterpiece "Long Day’s Journey
Into Night" goes well beyond any comparison that might be made
with any previous productions, even one that may be considered to
be definitive. I’m thinking, in particular, of the one in 1988 that
starred Jason Robards and Colleen Dewhurst, under Jose Quintero’s
direction. The importance of this new production lies rather in Falls’
addressing what many consider to be the greatest play in American
theater literature with a new reverence for the personal and the shared
pain of the members of the Tyrone household.
Just as the previous production teemed up quintessential O’Neill interpreters,
Falls has brought together a formidable company that proves itself
second to none. So extraordinary is the performing of Vanessa Redgrave,
Brian Dennehy, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Robert Sean Leonard that
whatever memories, ideas or fixed notions you may have about this
play will be forever altered. Indeed, if the American Theater can
be said to have been transformed by the works of O’Neill during the
first half of the century, then this production deserves a place for
its ability to reaffirm the greatness of this unwieldy and emotionally
Falls’ security with the text is notable in the unhurried pace that
allows the characters in this sorrowful, indeed, haunted play set
in the summer of 1912 to face their most tragic memories with the
greatest amount of poignancy. Be prepared for a long (four hours with
two intermissions) embroiled evening with the Tyrones, a family that
relishes its free-for-alls, but not one that necessarily makes the
one with the loudest voice the winner. It is important to know
that they are shades of O’Neill’s own family.
It is no overstatement to say that a legend is already in the making,
given the revelatory performance by Redgrave, as the hopelessly morphine-addicted
Mary Tyrone. The ever astonishing Redgrave, who hasn’t been seen on
a New York stage since she directed herself as Cleopatra for the Public
Theater, gives us a stinging new insight into Mary, both as a desperately
mean-spirited avenger and as a ravishingly noble spirit. This, as
we see her glide deeper and deeper into her hallucinatory meanderings.
We are kept spellbound by Redgrave’s movements, her increasingly nervous
fingers, the self-conscious fussing with loose strands of hair, and
a voice that resonates passionately when it isn’t trailing off like
Behind the heavy-set facade, the implacable vanity, and the devilishly
Irish eyes that seem, at times, to know more than they care to share
is Dennehy, who, as the aging matinee idol James Tyrone, now a miserly
and alcoholic patriarch, finds enough dramatic contours in the aborted
dreams of his past and the pained realities of the present to commandingly
hold up his end of the incessant bickering, accusing, recriminating
and even lying household. Let us hope that this superb actor, who
won the 1999 Tony award for best actor in a play for the 50th anniversary
production of Arthur Miller’s "Death of a Salesman" (also
directed by Falls), continues to achieve more such milestones with
Making waves as co-artistic director of the hotly talked about LaBrinth
Theater Company ("Our Lady of 121st Street"), as well as an
impressive number of Broadway and film roles, Hoffman is an explosive
presence. He is cynical dynamite as James Tyrone Jr., the wastrel
actor and alcoholic older son who has attempted to reach out to the
younger brother he both envies and protects.
Leonard, a Tony Award-winner ("The Invention of Love") who
also showed us he could also sing and dance as "The Music Man,"
is Edmond, the young, poetic and consumptive seafarer whose burning
love-hate relationship with his family is destined to make him the
autobiographical eyes and ears of the Tyrones. Leonard, representing
the young O’Neill, is splendid and touching as he emphasizes Edmond’s
sensitive brooding nature but even more brilliantly rises to challenge
each new tidal wave of emotion as it threatens to drown him. Fiana
Toibin has the right Irish flavor as the family’s summer servant whose
duties invite a little nip on occasion.
You can almost feel the fog rolling in outside designer Santo Loquasto’s
evocative setting, the gloomy living room of the Tyrone’s summer home.
Brian MacDevitt’s lighting masterfully considers James Tyrone’s unwillingness
to pay the electric bill. But who needs light when the stage is set
ablaze with such performances. Four stars. Don’t miss.
— Simon Saltzman
45th Street, New York. $60 to $100. Tele-Charge at 800-432-7250 or
212-239-6200. To August 31.
Corrections or additions?
This page is published by PrincetonInfo.com
— the web site for U.S. 1 Newspaper in Princeton, New Jersey.