LONG DAY'S JOURNEY INTO NIGHT at Rochester Community Players
The past weighs on our present, impacting our future. At the heart of a story about addiction, shame, loss, and regret, Long Day's Journey Into Night is really a story about the baggage we carry and how we let it dictate our lives and relationships. It's Eugene O'Neill's opus, and it's been brought to life by the Rochester Community Players.
Long Day's Journey Into Night is, of course, O'Neill's semi-autobiographical 1941 play which is commonly considered to be his finest work, and one of the 20th century's most important pieces of theatre; as Director Jean Gordon Ryon wrote in her show notes, many consider O'Neill the creator of modern American drama.
The play spends one day and night with the dysfunctional Tyrone family. Mary Tyrone (Judy McCaffrey) is an unstable mother addicted to morphine that recalls moments of her life in the past to escape from her reality. The Irish patriarch James Tyrone (Bill Alden) is a cheap and alcoholic man and former matinee idol, who feels vastly unfulfilled after a career of being pigeonholed into one role. The older son Jamie Tyrone (Bill McDonough) is an alcoholic idle man that loves and envies his brother and is blamed by his mother for the death of his younger brother. Edmund Tyrone (Ged Owen) is an aspiring writer that has consumption (tuberculosis) and tried to commit suicide. Throughout the course of the play, the Tyrones grapple with the morphine addiction of Mary, the illness of Edmund, and the alcoholism of Jamie. As day turns into night, guilt, anger, despair, and regret threaten to destroy the family.
To say that LDJIN doesn't make for a light, frothy night at the theatre is a colossal understatement. It runs at a whopping three and a half hours, has two intermissions, and traverses the full spectrum of human grief and misery (not unlike Eugene O'Neill's real life, as Ryon summarizes in her show notes). Given all that, it's understandable that not many community theatre groups try and tackle it; why not stick to Little Shop of Horrors or Waiting for Godot, fun stuff that puts butts in seats? Because Ryon and her ensemble are clearly capable of much more than that, as they demonstrate with this fine production of one of the American theatre canon's heaviest undertakings.
McDonough and Owen prove that they're up to the task of brothers Jamie and Edmund, two young men at war with their demons, and at times each other. In particular, both shine in Act IV as Edmund and James drink and play cards deep into the night as they wait for Jamie to arrive back home from a night of debauchery. The closing chapter of the play is intense and personal, thanks to the talent of these two young actors.
Alden's James Tyrone is a troubled, multi-faceted man burdened by his past, who alternates between rage and outpourings of love at the flick of a switch throughout this marathon of a play. Alden is dynamic and boisterous, and was an excellent choice to play the patriarch of the Tyrone family.
The standout, as is the case in many productions of this iconic play, is Mary Tyrone, brought to life with vivacity by Judy McCaffrey. Mary Tyrone is a well of sadness shrouded in a cloud (or to keep with the metaphor used throughout the play, a fog) of addiction who, like her husband, fluctuates between laughter and joy, bitterness and hostility. It's one of American theatre's heaviest roles, and McCaffrey is quite up to the task.
Rochester Community Players' production of Long Days Journey Into Night is a dark and brutally honest look into the inner-workings of a family plagued with grief, loss and resentment. It's playing at Rochester's MuCCC (Multi-Use Community Cultural Center) for one more weekend, ending on April 20th. For tickets and more information, click here.