BWW Previews: THE TYRONE FAMILY'S ADDICTIONS ON STAGE IN A LONG DAY'S JOURNEY INTO NIGHT at American Stage
American Stage's director Brendon Fox and set designer James Kronzer got the unique opportunity in spring to tour the Connecticut cottage where Eugene O'Neill's Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award-winning play Long Day's Journey into Night allegedly took place. They were able to look out the windows and connect to the scenery his characters discuss.
"The room is preserved to look exactly how O'Neill describes it in Long Day's Journey into Night. We got to sit in the chairs and feel the history and experience how detailed O'Neill was. Our production is not trying to replicate that, but we do evoke that with the layout, ground plan and staircase which plays a big role in the play. I don't know of any other play that you can actually go to the source and walk around, hear the floorboards creak and look out the window at how close the water is, as the characters describe," he said. "We took pictures and video and shared with the cast. I really think it helped to see it in their mind's eye and to give them a 360-degree view of this world that O'Neill is evoking."
Featuring Billy Finn, Rose Hahn, James Keegan, Josh Odsess-Rubin, and Janis Stevens, opening May 29 and running through June 30, Long Day's Journey into Night is a story of addiction - from morphine to alcohol - and a family's struggle to love itself.
"Part of my vision is to focus on making sure it's still relevant today. It's an important play, a landmark play of American theatre, but I feel strongly that a play just can't be important; it still has to feel vital and accessible today. We're still setting in 1912, but we letting it be visceral, finding the humor in it - which there is surprisingly a good amount - and letting these characters connect. They're a very tactile and passionate family."
The set combines the realism of the back parlor of the Tyrone house in New London with slightly expressionistic design through lighting and the way the set is painted. The deeper into the performance, the set begins to disappear, giving a surreal experience to the audience.
"Anyone with a family can relate to the Tyrone family's messages of that no one can understand you like your family and no one can drive you crazy like your family. Family knows just what to say to make you feel a little bit better and give them a little more strength, but then they also know where the Achilles' heels are," he said. "The Tyrone's say all the things you might think about, but refrain from saying. This family is addicted to the truth even if it means things can get tense. This play speaks to anyone who has loved one who they have complicated relationships."
Depending on the age of the audience member, where they are in life - parent, child, or sibling, Brendon believes each person will see the show from a different character's point of view.
"This play is full of life, high-spirits, funny and witty moments. This is a family that loves fiercely and they can also cause each other pain," he said. "When people come to see the show here, they are only a few rows away from the stage. This is the ideal place to see this type of play because you really are in the room with the characters. I was thrilled to be able to explore this intense rollercoaster by putting it in people's laps. This is the best way to experience this play - up close and personal."
Long Day's Journey into Night is May 29 through June 30 at American Stage, 163 3rd Street North St. Petersburg. Learn more and purchase your tickets at https://americanstage.org/JOURNEY,