Regional Reviews: Florida - Southern
Long Day's Journey into Night
Also see Jeffrey's review of Motown the Musical
Dramaworks has been in existence for 16 years and its climb to becoming one of the premiere theatres in South Florida can be attributed to Producing Artistic Director William Hayes, who helms one of the most magical experiences I have had in many years. This is a terrific production with a magnificent Maureen Anderman in the role of Mary Tyrone. What makes her performance even more astounding is the fact that she replaced another actress who left for "personal reasons" two and a half weeks before opening night. Ms. Anderman did not know the massive role and, with her superb instincts and ability to control the stage, she gives the most winning Mary I have ever seen. I saw four previous productions, including Jack Lemmon and Bethel Leslie in a so-so evening, and Robert Ryan (who was marvelous) and Geraldine Fitzgerald in a production I saw twice in three days.
An autobiographical play of great depth and compassion, Journey tells of the Tyrones, an Irish family of the early 20th century, and the demons that overtake their lives. The play takes place in three and a quarter hours with one intermission, and it flies by.
To state the obvious, the casting is tantamount in making an evening such as this into a success. Dennis Creaghan, a superb actor, has never been challenged as much as he is in the role of James, the patriarch of the family. James' frustrations are bared throughout the night and Creaghan manages to make the audience feel great sympathy as well as empathy for his James. Michael Stewart Allen is younger son Edmund, wracked with consumption (or a "summer cold" as his mother chooses to believe) and heartwrenching, especially in his latter monologue. As the maid Cathleen, Carey Urban walks the tightrope between caricature and realityand reality wins. She mines every laugh from Cathleen's sweet Irish mind. Only John Leonard Thompson as James Jr. seems to have not grasped the naturalness and lack of melodrama that Hayes presents, but it's still early in the run.
And that leaves us with Ms. Anderman. A lovely looking woman, I have admired her work in the past, especially in Seascape, but nothing prepared me for this performance. She is heartbreaking, from her first "I can't find my glasses": Frail, lonely, and nobody's fool, she plays her voice like a fine cello and, more importantly, knows when to hold back. Speaking of holding, brava to Ms. Anderman when some idiot's phone went off at a crucial time; she "held" until the aforementioned numbskull finished. We in South Florida are lucky, indeed, to have both Ms. Anderman and her husband, Frank Converse, for part of the year. I so look forward to seeing both of them on the stage next season. Ms. Anderman is Just superb and heartbreaking.
Technical credits are all top-notch, from K. April Soroko's scenic design to the moody lighting of Donald Edmund Thomas and the authentic costumes of Brian O'Keefe. I had not before seen a drama with the authenticity and gravitas that Hayes has mines from his actors.
Dramaworks usually has one of the most sophisticated and knowledgeable audiences in our region. Yet, in addition to the aforementioned "phone woman," there were at least half a dozen people texting during the performance. Lights aglow and tapping away. Hopefully, management can banish these people from ever darkening their doors again. That said, get thee to Long Day's Journey into Night. I cannot stop thinking about the entire piece, even days later, and Mary's iconic final lines. This is what theatre is all about. Bravi to all concerned!
Long Day's Journey into Night plays through March 6th, 2016, at Palm Beach Dramaworks, 201 Clematis St. West Palm Beach, FL. 33401 561-514-4042 www.palmbeachdramaworks.org.