Review: Amazing Performances Highlight A LONG DAY'S JOURNEY INTO NIGHT at the Geffen

By: Feb. 10, 2017
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Regarded as one of America's most important works, Eugene O'Neill's LONG DAY'S JOURNEY INTO NIGHT had its world premiere in Stockholm on February 2, 1956, in a production directed by Bengt Ekerot. Its Broadway debut followed on November 7, 1956 at the Helen Hayes Theatre, shortly after its U.S. premiere at Boston's Wilbur Theatre. The production won the Tony Award for Best Play and Best Actor in a Play (Fredric March as James Tyrone), and the New York Drama Critics' Circle Award for Best Play of the season. In 1957, it was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for Drama.

More recently, a 2016 revival of the play by the Roundabout Theater Company, starring Gabriel Byrne and Jessica Lange, was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Revival of a Play and a Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Revival of a Play.

Los Angeles audiences now have the chance to see brilliant performances as The Geffen Playhouse is presenting O'Neill's masterpiece featuring Emmy nominee Jane Kaczmarek and Tony nominee Alfred Molina as leads Mary Cavan Tyrone and James Tyrone, along with Angela Goethals as Cathleen, Stephen Louis Grush as James Tyrone, Jr., and Colin Woodell as Edmund Tyrone. This production marks the first major staging of the classic play in Los Angeles in nearly a decade, and even though it runs almost three and a half hours, each of the actors give amazing performances, making even the longest of scenes riveting to watch thanks to Jeanie Hackett's direction and the actors' skills.

Widely considered one of the most important drama ever written, this classic is as intensely personal as it is epic and expansive. O'Neill drew inspiration from his own life, losing his father, mother and only brother in little more than three years, plunging the author into a prolonged period of drinking. With searingly honest and often brutal observations about family, illness and addiction, the play is still so relevant today.

Set on a day in August, 1912, LONG DAY'S JOURNEY INTO NIGHT pulls back the curtain on the Connecticut home of the Tyrone family, where deep-seated resentments and bourbon-fueled tirades cause a family to expose their darkest natures. O'Neill paints the powerful and heart-rending portrait of a single day that begins as any other, only to become a night from which they will never recover as each family member sinks deeper into their personal addictions. That's not to say there aren't moments of levity in the play, as the first scene after intermission offers many chances to laugh as Mary and Cathleen return from a car ride into town to pick up the pain pills Mary says she needs for her rheumatic hands. As Kaczmarek and Goethals share a bottle and proceed to get drunk together, their comical mocking of other household members gets funnier by the moment.

Molina drinks to forget his failing acting career, his wife's descent into pill-popping madness, and his younger son Edmund's consumption which will soon lead to his incarceration in a less-than-reputable medical institution. Colin Woodell's realistic and worsening coughing spells and older son James' (Stephen Louis Grush) addiction to alcohol and loose women are heartbreaking in that there appears nothing can be done to turn their lives around. Molina commands the stage, especially when his constant drinking causes his temper to get the best of him.

The multi-level home designed by Tom Buderwitz includes transparent walls which allow us to watch characters as they climb and descend the stairs between floors, giving us an honest look at how different they can be when believing no one can see them. The house's seaside location is enhanced by Michael Roth's original music and soundscape compositions, with projections designed by Jason H. Thompson that enhance the sea and the fog.

LONG DAY'S JOURNEY INTO NIGHT continues through Saturday, March 18, 2017, in the Gil Cates Theater at the Geffen Playhouse, 10886 Le Conte Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90024. Performances Tuesday-Friday at 7:00pm, Saturday 1:00pm and 7:00pm, Sunday at 2:00pm. Tickets are priced at $32-$90, available in person at the Geffen Playhouse box office, by phone at (310) 208-5454, or online at Daily rush tickets are made available to the general public 30 minutes before show time at the box office for $35 general and $10 student.

During the run, the Geffen's Signature Series events take place including Talk Back Tuesdays, Girls Night Out and Lounge Fridays. Thanks to the support of Geffen Playhouse partners and sponsors, all elements of Signature Series evenings are complimentary as part of the ticket price. Please see the website for more information.

Photos by Chris Whitaker


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