At the end of this superb production of Eugene O’Neill’s harrowing autobiographical play, I barely had the strength to get out of my seat. The dramatic impact is shattering. The raw pain, passion and even the occasional clumsiness of the writing are testament to a work of heroic honesty.
O’Neill himself described it as being “written in tears and blood”. His wife said he was “tortured by the experience”, emerging from his study at the end of each day of writing “gaunt and sometimes weeping”.
The play has been known to run for as long as four-and-a-half hours, a long journey indeed. In this superbly judged and wonderfully acted production, which finds flickers of humour in the darkness as well as aching passages of desperate love, the director Anthony Page brings it in at under three hours, thanks to the fluency of the playing and some judicious cutting.
As the title suggests, the play follows a single day in the life of the Tyrone family in their summer home in 1912, with the dramatist looking back on his own mother, father and older brother, all of them dead when he wrote it between 1939 and 1941, as well as his own younger self.
It is a family racked by addiction, despair and festering guilt, but in the opening act O’Neill offers a heart-wrenching glimpse of hope. After years addicted to morphine, first prescribed to her when she gave birth to Edmund – O’Neill’s portrait of himself as a young man – the mother, Mary, appears to have undergone a successful cure. Her actor husband James is palpably proud of her, and the two sons are less juiced up than usual. The production brilliantly captures the tension of characters walking on eggshells around each other, fearful that this brief moment of happiness will be short-lived.
Strange Random Theatre Quote:
- Eugene O’Neill, master of American theatre (guardian.co.uk)
- Eugene O’Neill – Long Day’s Journey Into Night (realstorypublishing.com)
- Stage helmer Theodore Mann dies (variety.com)
- Theater producer and director Theodore Mann dies (goerie.com)
- Theater Review: O’Neill’s ‘Beyond the Horizon’ at Irish Repertory Theater (theater.nytimes.com)