Despite the magnificent set (Jack Magaw) upon entering, The Court Theatre’s production of Eugene O’Neill’s masterpiece,” Long Day’s Journey into Night”, got off to a rough start on press night. Harris Yulin and Dan Waller as James and Jamie Tyrone respectively stumbled through much of their early lines. Additionally, much of both actors’ performances felt highly affected. That is not to say they were entirely, or in Yulin’s case, even mostly, without merit. Yulin was able to characterize James Tyrone as a man torn between his own miserliness and severe delusions of poverty, and love for his family: the former two usually winning out over the latter. Thus, the most tragic, and heart-rending moments were when James tried (and largely failed) to connect with his sons’ and wife on an emotional level, conveying, through painful tenderness, a deep love that simply couldn’t manifest itself as it was never able to overcome his absurd protestations of impecuniousness (He was as Mary reminded him: a famous actor with a lot of land). Nonetheless, it was in these scenes, as James tried to reach out to his family member’s and console them in their suffering, which was often the result of his own actions, inaction or miserliness, and strived to show his love and affection in which Yulin’s performance was extremely genuine, highly affecting, and heart-breaking, and made up the crux of the play’s emotional devastation. Unfortunately, Waller’s performance as Jamie, was more consistently affected than Yulin’s, but he was very credible as man overcome and defeated by alcohol and despair in the play’s final scene. Nonetheless, both actors seemed, in their best moments, to be playing off the strength off Mary Beth Fisher as Mary and Michael Doonan as Edmund. Fisher was incredibly effective as wife and mother, and her understated, but thoroughly effective, performance as an addict slowly relapsing into morphine use brought tension, making the rest of the family’s reluctance and slowness to completely acknowledge that it was happening more credible. Additionally, Fisher’s portrayal of Mary’s madness through the character’s own perspective, drew us into her psyche with incredible deftness rather than leaving us on the outside as observers.
Perhaps most importantly, Doonan, who played Edmund Tyrone, and Fisher were perfectly matched as son and mother, and each interaction between was highly believable, largely because they corresponded so much with those interactions in every-day reality. Doonan, sickly; intelligent; and sensitive, as Edmund, undoubtedly gave the strongest and most grounded performance in the play, helping center his colleagues’ acting. And although obviously ill, Doonan’s, portrayal of Edmund left considerable ambiguity to his sickness’ nature, so his mother’s reluctance to acknowledge its true severity was more understandable than it might otherwise have been, much as Fisher’s performance allowed the family’s reluctance to believe she’s on morphine again to be a bit more credible.
No doubt these unique or highly effective facets of the play were largely the product of the fascinating direction of David Auburn whose decision to make Amanda and Edmund’s pathologies mysterious and interior kept O’Neill’s script fresh and made the whole three and a half hour’s pass quickly. That said, there were some serious short coming’s in his direction. Sometimes, important blocking (such as character’s listening surreptitiously on the staircase) got lost in the highly intricate set, and the very final moments of the play were botched, feeling jarringly, rather than, artistically discordant. Most importantly, the directed did not employ the the lighting (Lee Kenan), sound (Victoria Deiorio), or even the magnificent set, to give the feeling of a day slowly passing into night along with the titular temporal action of the play. Overall, this is an emotionally rendered, unique production of O’Neill’s work in which the quality of acting varies wildly and it contains both directorial triumphs and failures, but it the story does consistently demand one’s attention throughout the play.
” Long Day’s Journey Into Night” is playing at The Court Theatre, located at 5535 S. Ellis Avenue Chicago. It runs through April 10, 2016 with performances
Fridays, and Saturdays at 8:00 pm
Sunday’s at 7:30 pm.
Additionally, there is are matinee performances on Saturdays at 3:00 pm and Sundays at 2:30 pm.
Tickets are Between $45 and $65. They can be purchased by calling the box office at 773-753-4472 or by visiting www.courttheatre.org
Free parking in the garage just north of the theater
to see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-Up and click at “Long Days Journey Into Night”