(Recommended) Polarity Ensemble is a young diverse group of artists who have as their mission statement “To strive to advance the state of Chicago theater by developing new works and bringing new life to classics”. Their current production is indeed a classic- Eugene O’Neill’s “Long Days Journey Into Night” which deals with choices that people make, fate and consequences that take place based on some of the choices we make. There are many who call this O’Neill’s greatest play as it deals with a family, The Tyrones and how their lives have turned out. James Sr. ( a touching portrayal by Kevin Kenneally) is a theater person/actor who dabbles in real estate ( although not very successfully). His wife Mary ( a solid performance by Caroline Dodge Latta) who suffers from pains and aches and has taken to pain medication for relief grew up in a different world from that of her husband. They have two sons, one ,an alcoholic (Jamie played by Eric Damon Smith), the other, Edmund ( Bryan Breau) who it appears is dying from consumption. As the story unfolds on this particular day, we also learn that there was a third son who passed away as a child.
James, is somewhat of a penny pincher and likes to take a drink or two as often as possible. They are all unhappy with their lives and some of the choices they have made along the way. There is no real happiness to this family. This particular play is based on O’Neill’s own life and one can see from his plays that his family life was not what would be termed a joyful experience. Edmund, is the alter ego of O’Neill himself and drinking takes him away from the unpleasantness of his family life. Writing, it would appear, was his way of clearing his soul and allowing him expression of his unhappy experiences. O’Neill truly wanted to open up the eyes of audiences to let the know that they are not alone with their own fears and problems; that many people are experiencing the same difficulties and have made choices that did not bring the expected, or wanted results.
Director Susan Padveen uses the stage at the home of Polarity, a makeshift theater upstairs at The Josephinum Academy located at 1500 N. Bell quite well. Her set, designed with a great deal of reality by Ashley Ann Woods, with lighting by Karen M. Thompson is quite realistic and Angela M. Campos has done a supreme job in assembling props that truly complete the picture that Padveen has drawn from the script. This is a top notch production that clearly delivers every line that O’Neill wrote, thus it is 3 1/2 hours including a 10 minute intermission. For many audiences, in particular those not really into O’Neill, this may be a little long which would of course make it a Long Days Journey at the theater. It is definitely a play that leads you towards self analysis of your own life and the choices you have made or will make soon.
“Long Days” will continue at Polarity through December 5th with performances as follows:
Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2:30 p.m.
Tickets are a mere $19 ( students $10 with ID and Seniors, $15)
to purchase tickets call 1 -800-838-3006 or visit https://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/128707
There is plenty of street parking and public transportation is very close- 1500 Bell Street is one block South of North Avenue ( CTA) and just East of Western Avenue.