Theater Review | LONG DAY’S JOURNEY INTO NIGHT by Eugene O’Neill at Oregon Shakespeare Festival

ASHLAND, OREGON

9.3.2015 UPDATE I saw the show for a fourth time on August 15, 2015, and it has gotten much, much better since March/April, when I saw it three times in close succession. It appears a number of the issues I called out below have been addressed. I definitely recommend seeing it now.

Original review based on three viewings in March and April of 2015

Solid – but not without lots of small issues and a couple of big ones. Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s production of LONG DAY’S JOURNEY INTO NIGHT (LDJIN), Eugene O’Neill’s autobiographical masterpiece and family expiation, is hampered by age-inaccurate casting, non existent Irish context and a general lack of directorial vision and style.

Despite the limitations, as this ultra marathon of pain moves on toward its near four hour length in the second half, the sheer fascination of watching a literal reenactment of the psychic alchemy that made America’s first great playwright wins us over. Though he surely did not intend to, O’Neill has assured himself personal and artistic immortality by weaving his own life story deeply into the fabric of this late play, which becomes only more revealing and valuable to fans each year as we move farther away in time from O’Neill’s own era.

Even while the first half may drag a bit and the play ends with truly the worst directorial choice imaginable for O’Neill, the total experience on offer is still rewarding. It’s a good first viewing of the play for anyone coming to it new. Unfortunately it will not stand out for the devoted O’Neill scholars and enthusiasts who have seen the play many times before and travel the world ceaselessly (like ghosts in a Eugene O’Neill play), ever in search of great, defining performances of EON’s work.

As an American touchtone, this long journey into O’Neill’s soul could be (should be) so much more than this.  Especially when done on a prominent national stage like OSF.

LONG DAY’S JOURNEY INTO NIGHT by Eugene O’Neill at Oregon Shakespeare Festival

3-stars

Thru Oct 31

The Tyrone family gathers after breakfast (from left, Michael Winters, Danforth Comins, Judith-Marie Bergan, Jonathan Haugen). Photo: Jenny Graham.
Eugene O’Neill’s original repertory company: his family. Michael Winters, Danforth Comins, Judith-Marie Bergan, Jonathan Haugen. Photo: Jenny Graham.

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UPDATE 4.27.2015 Here’s a review of the show.

That fog horn is starting to blow, and the ghosts of Eugene O’Neill’s original rep company (his family) are gliding down the stairs of the old summer place on the Connecticut coast.

First preview of LONG DAY’S JOURNEY INTO NIGHT at Oregon Shakespeare Festival is today, and the show opens Sunday in the gorgeous and intimate Thomas Theatre.

I wouldn’t kid you, pal. I don’t throw phonies or run no rackets. This is just the straight crack. So listen up and get wise to the game.

Judith-Marie Bergan as Mary Tyrone, Michael Winters as James Tyrone. Photo: Jenny Graham.
Judith-Marie Bergan as Mary Tyrone, Michael Winters as James Tyrone. Photo: Jenny Graham.
Michael Winters as James Tyrone, Danforth Comins as Edmund Tyrone. Photo: Jenny Graham.
Michael Winters as James Tyrone, Danforth Comins as Edmund Tyrone. Photo: Jenny Graham.
Judith-Marie Bergan as Mary Tyrone, Michael Winters as James Tyrone. Photo: Jenny Graham.
Judith-Marie Bergan as Mary Tyrone, Michael Winters as James Tyrone. Photo: Jenny Graham.
Danforth Comins (left) as Edmund Tyrone , Jonathan Haugen as James Tyrone, Jr. Photo: Jenny Graham.
Danforth Comins (left) as Edmund Tyrone , Jonathan Haugen as James Tyrone, Jr. Photo: Jenny Graham.
The Thomas Theatre at OSF.
The Thomas Theatre at OSF.

Three doors of quiet | Tao House, Eugene O’Neill’s final writing place

It was Tao House in Danville, California where Eugene O’Neill wrote all the big final plays. O’Neill lived there from 1937-44, one of the longest stopovers in one place for this endlessly homeless American.

There were three doors O’Neill would close when writing in his study. Needless to say, Gene wasn’t real big on noise. Given the secluded nature of the estate, he didn’t have to spend a lot of time chasing kids off the lawn.

Shut in at his desk, gazing out at the brown hills while the world was enveloped in the fireball of World War II, it was just Gene working away in silence with his original rep company of family ghosts.

Tao House in Danville, California.
Tao House in Danville, California.

www.wingoodbody.photography

www.wingoodbody.photography

www.wingoodbody.photography

Up the stairs to Gene's office.
Up the stairs to Gene’s office.
Around the corner.
Around the corner.
The first door.
The first door.
An outer room, and then the second door.
An outer room, and then the second door.
The third and final door.
The third and final door.
And then all of a sudden, there it is.
And then all of a sudden, there it is.
At this desk: The Iceman Cometh (1939), A Touch of the Poet (1939), More Stately Mansions (1939), Hughie (1941), Long Day’s Journey Into Night (1941), A Moon for the Misbegotten (1943).
At this desk: The Iceman Cometh (1939), A Touch of the Poet (1939), More Stately Mansions (1939), Hughie (1941), Long Day’s Journey Into Night (1941), A Moon for the Misbegotten (1943).
Got a play to write?  Sit down and try it out.  No pressure.
Got a play to write? Sit down and try it out. No pressure.

Long day’s journey to Ashland | Eugene O’Neill’s timeless, endless LONG DAY’S JOURNEY INTO NIGHT opens March 29 at Oregon Shakespeare Festival

LDJIN
DOAS
ASND

In the American theatre, there are a lot of plays.

But it’s tempting to come back to “the big three” of the post WW II era.

O’Neill, Miller, Williams. Together they gave us death of a long day’s journey named desire. They all blend together into unforgettable drama. Where would we be without them?

Get ready for the O’Neill chapter of the triad at OSF, starting next weekend.

Directed by Christopher Liam Moore

CAST

Michael Winters as James Tyrone
Judith-Marie Bergan as Mary Tyrone
Danforth Comins as Edmund Tyrone
Jonathan Haugen as Jamie Tyrone
Autumn Buck as Cathleen

And here’s an early prediction: Jonathan Haugen as Jamie is going to be a force of nature.

The man from New London.  Gene O'Neill.
The man from New London. Gene O’Neill.
Coming soon in this sacred space.  One of the big three.  LONG DAY'S JOURNEY INTO NIGHT at OSF.
Coming soon in this sacred space. One of the big three. LONG DAY’S JOURNEY INTO NIGHT at OSF.

THE ICEMAN COMETH … and stayeth … for at least five hours | Endangered Species Project at Seattle’s ACT Theatre stages one night reading of marathon Irish-American classic on September 15

The budgie and the five-toed sloth aren’t the only things in danger of disappearing as we hurtle deep into the 21st century.

Certain great American plays are also going extinct. Maybe not on the page – but on the stage.

Case in point, Eugene O’Neill’s THE ICEMAN COMETH. With a cast of zillions and requiring up to four or five hours of running time (depending on how much of a soft spot the director has for those long silent tableaus of desolate drunks face down on their tables in Harry Hope’s Saloon), this leviathan does not get done much anymore. It may be the only epic play that has not yet been turned into a one man show at Edinburgh. (Hint: Your big break awaits.)

And if you have been longing to take in this uplifting, Horatio Alger success story of American optimism and can do spirit, but have not seen it listed lately at your local high school or community theatre? Here comes a (partial) chance (somewhat) nearby.

The Endangered Species Project at Seattle’s ACT theatre is doing a one night reading of ICEMAN on September 15. It’s five hours including two intermissions. If you’re one of those marathon types who breezed through GATZ at TBA a few years back and still had something left, this could be for you. Apparently these ESP nights are pretty damn great.

Hungry for the fully staged ICEMAN experience? You’re gonna have to travel a little farther afield.

The Goodman Theater production with Nathan Lane and Brian Dennehy touches down at BAM in February with a new installment of cheer and hope for jaded Gotham dwellers.

Heartbreaker and all around Irish-American tough guy: Gene O'Neill.
Heartbreaker and all around Irish-American tough guy: Gene O’Neill.

2014 International Eugene O’Neill Conference comes home to New London, Connecticut

This year’s International Eugene O’Neill Conference, Eugene O’Neill: Hunted, Haunted, Home, is getting the band back together and going straight to the source: New London, Connecticut, the location of the O’Neill family summer cottage and setting for several of his plays.

This is the first time the conference has taken place in New London. A production of The Eugene O’Neill Society, the gathering takes place once every three years and is an extraordinarily fun occasion to meet O’Neill scholars and fans from all over the world in a casual setting.

This year’s dates are June 18-21, 2014.

Coming soon - O'Neill conference hits New London.
Coming soon – O’Neill conference hits New London.

Below are a few photos from the last O’Neill conference in 2011, which took place in Gene’s home range of Greenwich Village.

The Provincetown Playhouse in the West Village.
The Provincetown Playhouse in the West Village.
Current O'Neill Society President Jeff Kennedy addresses the group inside the Provincetown Playhouse.
Current O’Neill Society President Jeff Kennedy addresses the group inside the Provincetown Playhouse.
John Douglas Thompson, who starred in an acclaimed 2009 production of THE EMPEROR JONES at the Irish Rep, addresses the conference.
John Douglas Thompson, who starred in an acclaimed 2009 production of THE EMPEROR JONES at the Irish Rep, addresses the conference.
Discussion group in NYU building.
Discussion group in NYU building.
A new memorial is dedicated in the Golden Swan Garden.
A new memorial is dedicated in the Golden Swan Garden.
Irish Rep Artistic Director Ciarán O’Reilly.
Irish Rep Artistic Director Ciarán O’Reilly.