Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Long Day's Journey into Night"

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note: entire contents copyright 2000 by Larry Stark

"Long Day's Journey into Night"

by Eugene O'Neill
Directed by Sean David Bennett

Set Design by Deb Gregg
Lighting Design by Amy Lee
Costume Design by Phyllis Kingston & Deb Gregg
Production Stage Manager Mary Moffett

James Tyrone......................................Ed Sorrell
Mary Tyrone...............................Lynne Moulton
James Tyrone Jr. ............................Doug Rainey
Edmund Tyrone.................................Tom Berry
Cathleen.........................................Rose Carlson

I couldn't review the dress for "Long Day's Journey into Night" which I saw on 31 October and it wasn't till 18 November, when it was closing that I could get back... but rough spots in the dress smoothed out considerably during the run.Then I caught a vicious cold that added to a writer's block that I am only now overcoming. I really hate writing a review in the past tense, but many actors know I don't review plays I don't like, so when a review is delayed even a day or two those who know I saw a performance often jump to the conclusion that I hated it, which is rarely the case. My very good friends in the cast of this show know I liked it and the fact that the show is closed makes this review moot; however, reports I have heard of the Boston GLOBE's dismissal out-of-hand of sending anyone to look at The Delvena Theatre Company's work on it means I must fill the gap and give it my full attention, no matter how late.

I didn't hear the interchange, and words are often distorted when retold in anger, but apparently after flatly refusing a review the GLOBE representative softened the blow by saying that, should Delvena in future produce a significant work by an important playwright they would be happy to rethink their position. Apparently a major autobiographical play by Eugene O'Neill insufficiently fulfilled those constraints. I suppose I should be hardened to it by now, but the cavalier contempt that everyone connected with the Boston GLOBE displays toward local theater companies continues to astound me.

Probably the Delvena Company is a shoestring operation unworthy of the GLOBE's notice. They work, after all, in the BCA's Leland space because that's all they can afford. Still, I have seen them do bad ("Misery) and stunning ("Anna Weiss") theater back-to-back, and despite the GLOBE's attempts to ignore them out of existence they won't go away. (They are planning to do All the plays of O'Neill and All the plays of Lillian Hellman, just as well and completely as finances allow.) But, how could I have nominated "Anna Weiss" for a Best Ensemble IRNE Award if, like the GLOBE, I decided Before Ever Seeing Their Work that The Delvena Company wasn't worth my time?

But aside from that, Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play?

Surprisingly fresh and alive --- considering the fact that I can still remember a Larry somebody and Margaret Leighton seen doing it at The Old Vic in London in 1972. Director Sean David Bennett emphasized the family-ness of these Tyrones, whose private arguments inside the walls of their Connecticut summer-home were full-voice confrontations on deadly serious matters. As the three-hour play whipped by, with revelations and confrontations coming thick and fast, it got better, more engrossing, more lyrical act by act.

Early on Lynne Moulton as mother Mary Tyrone caught small hints and sly glances that made her irrationally nervous ("What, is my hair coming down?"), and gradually her suspected suspicions unloosed a flood of bitter memories and recriminations from her, her two sons, and the successful melodrama-actor she's married to. Since the play is closed it will spoil no one's surprises to reveal that Mary is recently back from a sanatorium-stay that only temporarily cured her morphine addiction. As the dams of Irish memory fell the family re-opened old wounds, and fresh ones.

Tom Berry played young Edmund, home with a potentially fatal case of tuberculosis after voyages as a merchant seaman and afraid his miser-dad would send him to the cheapest of hospitals thus condemning him to die. Doug Rainey played James Junior, a failed actor because of whores and drink. And Ed Sorrell was James Tyrone, who sold his bright young talent for long, safe tours in a crowd-pleasing play until he could only remember once playing Othello better than Booth. Rose Carlson played young Cathleen, a snippy servant-girl not long from The Old Country.

Each took a turn at family fights, self-justifications and self-condemnations. As the fogs and the fog-horns rolled symbolically in, and all but Mary had more than a drop of Irish whiskey, the long, glorious final act stretched on in lyrical passages of memory and regret, proving all the Tyrones had long since forgiven things that no longer could be helped, but could not, would never forget --- as their tangled pasts drove them forever on into hopeless present despair.

Both times I saw it were the only two sparsely filled performances, with several sell-outs. Despite the GLOBE's indifference, someone thought the show worth attending. And even played to half-empty seating, there were tense titters and little moans and gasps at the vehemence of the conflicts, the intense playing, the relentless incoming tide of emotion, the slide into false forgetfulness for Mary and her men.
What a pity no important critic cared to attend.


"Long Day's Journey into Night" (till 18 November)
The Leland Theatre, Boston Center for The Arts, 539 Tremont Street, BOSTON

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide