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.
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.
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
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.
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