LONG DAY’S JOURNEY INTO NIGHT by Carol Kaufman Segal
Eugene O’Neil won the Pulitzer Prize in 1957 for his play, Long Day’s Journey into Night, based on his own dysfunctional family. Like most of O’Neil’s plays, it is morose and tragic. However, it is a classic, and though it runs for more than three hours, the drama is enticing, especially when it is presented with a sterling cast which you will find at the Geffen Playhouse.
The time is a day in August, 1912, the place, the Tyrone Family’s summer home in New London, Connecticut (lovely set by Tom Buderwitz). The day begins at 8:30 a.m. and takes place throughout a single day until around midnight. James (three-time Tony nominee Alfred Molina) has just brought his wife, Mary (seven-time Emmy nominee Jane Kaczmarek), home from a hospital stay. His concern for her mental state is apparent. She appears in a happy frame of mind.
As the hours progress, their two sons, James, Jr. (Stephen Louis Grush) and Edmund (Colin Woodell), arrive home. At times, the love of each of them for one another protrudes through the moments, but there is a bitterness that prevails between them all due to each of their individual demons. James drinks heavily to forget his fate in life (he had wanted to be an actor), Mary continues her pill-popping. (She claims she needs her pills for her arthritic hands!) James, Jr. has a problem with alcohol and women, but obviously, loves Edmund and is deeply concerned for his health. Edmund, poor Edmund is suffering from serious consumption and James, who is a penny-pincher, wants to put him in a state hospital, while James, Jr. tries to convince his father to send him to a private facility.
The play is heavy, but with such captivating performances, the time goes quickly. There is a moment of comic relief when the family maid, Cathleen (Angela Goethals), comes back from taking Mary for a ride to pick up her “pain pills.” Cathleen, we discover, likes to imbibe a bit herself and she and Mary share a bottle in a scene in which they both become inebriated.
Jeanie Hackett does a great job directing an outstanding cast. Kaczmarek unravels as the day passes, and it is amazing to see the slow downward change in her character. Molina’s nature changes from moment to moment. At first he appears to be a loving husband and father, but again, he can become belligerent. He seems to vacillate. Could it be the alcohol? Edmund is the only reasonable person in the family, no demons, but a serious illness which Woodell creates very convincingly.
Long Day’s Journey into Night plays Tuesdays through Fridays at 7 PM, Saturdays at 1 PM and 7 PM, and Sundays at 2 PM, through March 18, at the Geffen Playhouse, 10886 Le Conte Ave., Los Angeles. Tickets are available online at www.geffenplayhouse.org, by phone at (310) 208-5454, or at the Geffen Playhouse Box Office.