Regional Reviews: Philadelphia
It is deeply depressing that the addictions and ailments plaguing the Tyrone family in 1912 are still the cause of so much suffering today. And yet the real tragedy of Long Day's Journey into Night is not the all-consuming nature of addiction or the cruel cycle of family dysfunction, but the tantalizing possibility of redemption. Together in their tiny house; each desperately seeking the sense of connection, love, and stability family could provide. If only they could change their behavior. Break the cycle. Reach out to each other.
Director Alexander Burns' excruciating and exquisite production at Quintessence Theatre Group emphasizes this tension by embracing both the family's abiding love and the depth of cruelty among them.
Paul Hebron plays the devoted but deeply flawed James Tyrone with conviction and grit. Unfortunately, a lack of panache makes it hard to accept Hebron as a former matinee idol. E. Ashley Izard is devastating as Marydeteriorating slowly over the long day, shifting between regal detachment and abject desperation. Josh Carpenter builds to an exceptional performance as world-weary Jamie. Carpenter's gut wrenching act four monologue bears out the theme of internal conflict with raw honesty, a feat all the more impressive because Jamie delivers it three sheets to the wind. James Davis is a well cast and genuinely sympathetic Edmund Tyrone.
Where many productions of Long Day's Journey into Night start quietly and slowly reveal the extent of the family's dysfunction, these Tyrones lash out at each other from the start. Rather than a building animosity, we get the sense that the sustained vitriol is wearing everybody down. By the time Hebron relates the story of James' doleful childhood (one of the play's most powerful moments), we can see a man who has been worn down not just from the day, but from a lifetime of fighting. After spending nearly four hours with his family, we cannot help but feel his pain. It is an exhausting but effective interpretation.
The set and sound design (also Alexander Burns) and the lighting design (Ellen Moore) each contribute to the sense of heavy gloom that seems to engulf the Tyrone family. Burns creates an open performance space while keeping the sitting room where the action takes place appropriately cramped. Jane Casanave's costume designs evoke the turn of the century.
Three hours and 45 minutes is a big ask for a modern audience, but for anybody ready to explore the gnarled soul of the American family, Eugene O'Neill still has a lot to give.
Long Day's Journey into Night runs through October 22nd, 2017, at the Sedgwick Theater at 7137 Germantown Avenue in Mt. Airy. Tickets are available online at www.quintessencetheatre.org or at the Box Office at time of performance.