Interview: Robert O'Hara Opens Up About His Contemporary Take on LONG DAY'S JOURNEY INTO NIGHT

Long Day's Journey Into Night Plays through February 20, 2022 at Minetta Lane Theatre.

By: Feb. 08, 2022
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Long Day’s Journey into Night

The Tyrones are back this season at the Minetta Lane Theatre. Audible Theater's new production of Eugene O'Neill epic Long Day's Journey Into Night is currently in performances off-Broadway, playing through February 20, 2022. At the helm is Tony Award nominee Robert O'Hara, who directs Emmy Award nominee Bill Camp, four-time Obie Award winner Elizabeth Marvel, Tony Award nominee Ato Blankson-Wood, and Jason Bowen in a contemporary reimagining of the classic play.

At the heart of O'Neill's masterwork is the Tyrone family, living together again under lockdown. As the pressure builds, each family member retreats to their own destructive vices. This must-see production inspired by the events of 2020 is a visceral and provocative exploration of addiction and mental health speaking to our present moment.

Below, O'Hara checks in with BroadwayWorld about the inspiration for the adaptation and more!

I understand that this interpretation of the show was inspired by recent events. Can you explain a bit about where the idea came from?

Well, I had been having conversations with Elizabeth Marvel about collaborating on a project and there were a number of titles we were thinking about. We ended on Long Day's Journey. One of the things that we talked about was how it felt very present with the addiction and the alcoholism, and the isolation and how last year and actually in 2020, there were the most deaths from opioids ever in the country, and just how one negotiates addiction during a quarantine, and we felt very strongly that it could speak to the present day, since the Tyrone family is in isolation, and many people went back to their families to spend their Covid isolation. So that's where the idea came from.

Long Day’s Journey into Night

Was there a key to figuring out how the Tyrone's would interact in modern times?

I think that, because we were all living in a quarantine time, we've all experienced that. I think everyone had a personal relationship to isolation. And I believe everyone on the planet has a relationship to addiction. Because many people have family members and friends in recovery or just know people who are dealing with various forms of addiction. So the interaction was really based on everyone's personal experience with these issues, so that was a key really. It was important that the cast feel like a family and feel immediate in the way that family members can drag you back immediately to a place that is traumatizing. With one word, or inflection or one look, adults can be instantly put into a situation of how they existed when they left home. So it was very interesting to interrogate the play from that place.

This is also a shorter version of the show. How did you go about designing what stays and what goes?

Long Day’s Journey into NightIt was really a group effort. And it came from a deep reading, re-reading and dramatic investigation for each of us. Beth and I had done some cuts and gotten them approved from the estate. And then when we gathered as a full cast for rehearsals we spent a lot of time digging in, and really fleshing out this version. We had lots of conversations about what stays and what goes. Throughout we kept finding new things. Therefore this edit was a group effort from all the artists involved.

What do you enjoy most about O'Neill's writing?

I enjoy the brutality of his writing. He doesn't sugar coat. He puts drunks in bars and living rooms and keeps them there. He puts depression and defeat right in our faces. He exposes the heartfelt pain of it all. I also enjoy the repetition of his language, because many wounds are picked over and over in the course of his plays. Overall his writing is just damn intoxicating. Pun intended. It's all encompassing. And the way he looks at an issue, and works around it over and over and over and over. As a director I love the tragedy of his work, I always say, I'm not particularly interested in investigating healthy characters, I want to investigate characters that are messy, and characters that are dealing with some real shit.

What do you think makes this play so enduring and beloved all these years later?

I think it goes back to everyone has some sense of family, whether they have created their own family, or whether they're in need of a family, or whether they have run from their family. It is the idea that there are people who are attached to you, that may not be the most loving, or the most comforting, and that you have to sort of work through your relationship over the years, and those relationships evolve. From a child, to a teenager, to an adult, to an elderly person, and you are constantly evaluating your relationship. I think this play does that in such a brilliant and precise way. That's why it endures because we've all had Long Day's Journey into Nights with our own families.

Long Day’s Journey into Night

What are your proudest and getting this production stage in front of the audience?

I'm proud of the family that was created on stage. And the trust that was given to us by the estate, and the trust that the actors and the designers and Audible, gave to the production because there's every reason for it not to work. I think it works in a really profound way because it speaks to the moment that we're in. We did not know that we would be in the middle of another surge when we started doing this production, but now it feels truly like a COVID production of this play. And I'm proud of that.

Tickets are on sale now at The production will also be recorded as an Audible Original, extending its reach to millions of Audible listeners around the world.