Long Day’s Journey Into Night Revival Emotionally Charged

Long Day’s Journey Into Night Revival Emotionally Charged

When you see Eugene O’Neill’s name attached to a play, you know you’re in for something substantial, and the latest Broadway revival of his Long Day’s Journey Into Night is no exception. Taking place over the course of one day, this theatrical opus showcases the fracturing relationships among a husband, wife and their two adult sons. The year may be 1912 and issues may include morphine addiction and consumption, but familial woes are always relevant and this cast’s interpretation of O’Neill’s semi-autobiographical text will leave you on the edge of your seat.

Many scenes contain only a pair of performers, even though there are five characters in the show (the four family members and their maid, Cathleen). These one-on-one conversations—ranging from heartfelt confessions to full-out arguments—reveal the emotional depths that each of these characters contain, providing audiences with an intimate peek inside an ever-crumbling exterior the Tyrone family can no longer hold together.

Gabriel Byrne plays patriarch James Tyrone, the Irish actor-turned property owner who constantly has money on his mind after being raised in a beyond humble household. Byrne’s presence is magnetizing and you are drawn to his James because he effortlessly commands attention but also because there is a haunting vulnerability to this character’s inability to escape the financial hardships of his past, even if it puts strain on his family.

Jessica Lange reprises the role of Mary Tyrone, having played her to critical acclaim in London back in 2000. There’s a real sense of loss to her performance that is altogether heartbreaking. Mary talks in circles, latching onto what was and what could—or should—have been. Lange makes you feel Mary’s longing for a real home and it genuinely hurts.

The Tyrone sons are played by John Gallagher, Jr. (Edmund) and Michael Shannon (James Jr., referred to as Jamie). Gallagher’s portrayal of Edmund’s self-awareness of his medical condition in relation to his parents’ struggles is gripping to watch, especially when you know that this is the character that most parallels O’Neill himself.

However, it is Michael Shannon’s performance that I find most memorable. His intense ticking time bomb-esque physicality and confrontations are powerful, but never over the top. It’s ironic to the point of tragedy how Jamie is both the voice of reason and a prime instigator. No one’s family is drama-free, but the Tyrones’ unfortunate experiences make for quite the cautionary tale.

I was aware that O’Neill instructed the play not be produced until after his death, but it’s only now that I truly understand why—this is one of the most intimate works of art in the canon of American theater. Roundabout’s stunning production, 60 years after Long Day’s Journey Into Night first premiered on Broadway, has earned seven Tony Award nominations including Best Revival of a Play. This limited run is being performed at the American Airlines Theatre on W. 42nd St. through June 26.

Photos courtesy Joan Marcus

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