Review: 'Long Day's Journey' Presented At O'Neill's Home.
The show: Eugene O'Neill's "Long Day's Journey Into Night"
What makes it special?: It's being presented in the boyhood summer home of O'Neill: the Monte Cristo Cottage in New London, Ct. where the play is set -- and where O'Neill's far happier "Ah! Wilderness" is also set.
.The show is being presented by the New London-based Flock Theatre with the blessing of the Waterford-based Eugene O'Neill Theater Center, which runs the historic home. There is only room for about 25 audience members per performance, making it the most intimate theatrical production I have ever seen.
So what was it like?: Folks arrived for the 3 p.m. start as if going to church., and in a way the play is O'Neill's stations of the cross. From the early arrivals, there was cordiality and smiles and knowing nods to each other as the audience members arrive. But there was not the idle, boisterous chitchat and big laughs that fill many pre-show lobbies.
Maybe that's because there's no lobby. You're immediately in the O'Neill/Tyrone home and since the family didn't exactly invite us in for tea, there;'s a sense of reserve in everyone's manner -- and knowing that we would be experiencing an epic family drama. . So before the show you politely stroll among some of the rooms which feature a rich historic look of O'Neill's life and career, as well as that of New London and his family.
It was a pleasant and sunny Saturday and several folks lingered on the iconic porch, too. Before the second half -- which began at 7:30 p.m. following a nearly three-hour break, audience members also could go to check out the claustrophobic upstairs.
The intimacy of the production was such that the audience seemed to be holding its breath for the full four acts, and never so much than the heartbreaking ghostly final scenes, climaxed with Mary Tyrone's coming down the staircase clutching her wedding dress as if it were her own long dead corpse.
And speaking of ghosts...: Yes, how could you not? These were the very planks, the walls, the windows, and especially the stairs where O'Neill's tormented family lived, breathed and inspired his masterwork. But no abnormal sightings. The spirits were in the writing and in the performances.
The actors spoke (almost) naturalistically. There was sometimes a tendency to overplay, but just a tad. And this was the first performance since last spring when the production debuted at the home. The performances were uniformly solid with each actor having some stunning moments.
The cast was made up of Anne Flammang as Mary Tyrone; Christie Williams as James Tyrone; Victor Choiburis as Edmund; Eric Michaelian as Jamie and Madeleine Dauer as Cathleen.Derron Wood directed and eased the audience into the experience.
None of them were in the outbursts, the shouts and the fierce accusations but rather in the quiet moments. These were made up of looks shot across a room at each other in secret family code;, of whispers and restrained voices on the edge of despair; of sighs, of silences, of the revelations of the tiniest details: the ever-so-slightly lost look, the throwaway gesture to change a subject; the averted eyes of shame and hopelessness; and always the terrible fear of being overheard in the next room, or upstairs.
There may have been actors in previous productions that you'll still feel as being the definitive interpretation of certain roles, but you'll never quite experience the multiple realities as this production. There is literally no escaping it's visceral power of a real family coming to grips with itself in such close quarters.
Who will like it?: O'Neill fans. Actually any theater folks who think they will find deeper resonance being in the actual home. It's hard to deny the goosebump factor.
Who won't?: The up-close tensions are so real that those with family traumas might find it too much to bear. Don't feel bad. Gene would understand.
For the kids?: No. It takes a certain amount of audience reserve to be literally a foot or two away from the action where there is no exit -- unless you help Cathleen clear the table.
Twitter review in 140 characters or less: A 'Journey' of a lifetime.
Thoughts on leaving the parking lot: Is there any play/production more single-site specific? "1776" at Philadelphia perhaps, but there are scenes that are outside the room where THAT happened. "Inherit the Wind" in the Tennessee courtroom? Again, there are scenes outside the courthouse. Suggestions?
The basics: The production continues through May 20. at The Monte Cristo Cottage, 325 Pequot Ave, New London on Saturdays and Sundays. $35 First half starting at 3pm. Second half starting at 7:30pm April 21 (Sold out), April 28, and May 5 (Sold Out)
Special “Long Day’s” performances. $45 with acts beginning at times that simulate those specified in the script. Act I, 9 a.m. Act II, 12:45 p.m. Act III, 7 .p.m Act IV, 8 .p.m. Seating very limited. Reservations required. Information: flock theater.com or 860-443-3119
Where the audience sits.