Theater Review: ‘Long Day's Journey into Night’

A new production of Eugene O'Neill's epic "Long Day's Journey Into Night" has just opened on Broadway. NY1’s Roma Torre filed the following review.

“Long Day’s Journey into Night” is the mother of family dysfunction plays. At nearly 4 hours, Eugene O’Neill’s classic, based on his own family circa 1912, is truly a masterpiece, if overlong. And while the drama could benefit from a trimming, Jonathan Kent’s immaculate production starring Jessica Lange leading a glorious ensemble, is riveting from start to finish.

Lange is Mary Tyrone, addicted to morphine ever since the difficult birth of her younger son Edmund. There is hope at play’s start that she has finally kicked the habit, but concerns over Edmund’s persistent cough have driven her back on the drugs.

Husband James, once a matinee idol, is a loving but stingy presence. He is frustrated with his wife’s addiction and disappointed in both his sons. Edmund, a poet and O’Neill’s alter ego, is a sensitive soul - a little in love with death. Profligate older brother Jamie is a boozer and a truth-teller.

The characters inflict pain on each other in that familial cycle of accusation, recrimination and denial. But there's also humor, just enough to give us a breather from the grim interactions.

John Gallagher Jr. plays the deeply conflicted Edmund as the least flawed but also the most vulnerable in this toxic household.

Michael Shannon, an actor with a built-in edge, exhibits the many dimensions of a damaged son who sees all too clearly the tragic dynamic in force but is helpless to act.

Gabriel Byrne is also ideally cast as the stalwart patriarch. His fourth act monologue is especially moving.

And our hearts bleed for Jessica Lange's Mary Tyrone, a wounded tiger cheated out of a life filled with so much promise. She is hauntingly radiant.

The beauty of this production is the perfect balance - both in the writing and performances - that speaks to the emotional interdependence defining so many American families. Like the scarred Tyrones, we fight, we cry, we love and amid all the sadness, we manage to survive.

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