Very little rings true here. From mountain of sub plots, current day events and social/familial themes, nothing much of substance is milled. Many familiar pitfalls of new play dramaturgy on display: over use of technology, fascination with social media, too many cuts. Bonus: Implausible homeless guy with heart of gold.
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
In just a few hours, the Tyrones will gather.
LDJIN opens this afternoon in OSF’s Thomas Theatre, configured on three sides for 270.
One of the highlights of opening weekend at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival this year was a behind the scenes tour of the Thomas Theatre with veteran designer Richard Hay.
Hay was closely involved with the design of this dazzling space, which was completed in 2002.
He has also worked on scores of shows during his 50 years at OSF.