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Editor: Frederick Wilkins
Suffolk University, Boston

Vol. IX, No. 3
Winter, 1985


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IN THIS ISSUE)

REVIEWS OF O'NEILL PLAYS IN PERFORMANCE

3. LONG DAY'S JOURNEY INTO NIGHT, directed by Bernard Kates. Marian Theatre, Pacific Conservatory of the Performing Arts, Santa Maria, CA. Closed on February 17, 1985.

In the Central California Coastal Plain, some three hours north of Los Angeles, is a lively performing arts company now in its third decade. Connected with Allan Hancock Community College in Santa Maria, Theaterfest, together with its teaching arm, the Pacific Conservatory of the Performing Arts, runs a year-round schedule. Several plays are produced in succession during the year, with some eight plays mounted in repertory during the summer months. They are performed at two locations: in the Marian Theater on campus, and in the outdoor Festival Theater in Solvang, a quaint Danish town some thirty miles distant.

During its 1985 winter season. PCPA produced Long Day's Journey Into Night. Directed by Bernard Kates, the cast included the Artistic Director at PCPA, Vincent Dowling (formerly Artistic Director of the Great Lakes Shakespeare Festival). as Tyrone.


Colm Meaney (Jamie), Vincent Dowling (Tyrone) and Robert Elliott (Edmund) in PCPA's Journey. (Photo: Tom Smith.)

The play revolves around Mary Tyrone's renewed dependence on morphine, her struggle against it, and her adamant denials that contrast so sharply with her equally desperate pleas for understanding, help and forgiveness. Since her torment is at the center of the tragic family "journey," a troubled Mary is an absolutely essential ingredient in any production. And so the PCPA Journey was at best an incomplete one, for its Mary (Dorothy James) showed no morphine dependence, no struggle, and no contrast. Unchanging, almost monotonous throughout, she gave her fellow performers no one to play against or with; and since nothing seemed to happen to her, it was as if the play itself never really "happened."

Compounding the problem was the fact that, though the direction was full and rich, the performance lacked sufficient variety in pace and tone. Given the somber nature of the subject and the tragic outcome, every effort must be made to play against that final mood in the first scenes of the play. If the "family" part of this family tragedy is to be seen, the early moments of laughter and togetherness must be played for all they're worth. Unfortunately that textural (and textual) element received insufficient emphasis this time.

In addition, the performances of the male Tyrones were uneven. James (Vincent Dowling) was interesting at times, and pleasant to watch; but he lacked the energy and the attitude of confidence that twenty years' standing in his profession would have brought him. And without a struggling, desperate Mary, there wasn't much for him to do. Colm Meaney was brash and intriguing as Jamie, lacking only in a bit of the raw quality of the streets. Edmund (Robert Elliot) elicited sympathy from his audience, and concerned response from his family, but he looked ten years too old for the part; it was hard to believe that he was Jamie's younger brother.

The scenery and lighting design by John Dexter were excellent. The set was beautiful, realistic, and appropriate, with a proper touch of deteriorating class. Costumes (by Jack Shouse) were good, but not particularly inspired.

An interesting experiment in the PCPA program was a single performance by the understudies. With far less rehearsal time behind it. this performance was rushed and undeveloped, but it made its point well, and it offered more comedy and more expression of the play's innate ambivalence than did the regular performances. Brad Gooding as .James Tyrone. thrust into the role with little time for preparation, was not well-developed, and perhaps not quite right for the part, but did marvelous work stepping into a difficult role on short notice. Mary (Bess Brown) was too young and too rushed, but the sense of reality of her tragedy moved the other characters to action, and the audience to feeling. Richard Garvin was big, rough and worldly as Jamie, while Eric Porter was perfect as Edmund and gave a sensitive and wonderful performance. Neither version was electrifying, but the two proved to be remarkably different.

--Luther Hanson

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