PTD Productions taking a 'Long Day's Journey Into Night'
The play is O’Neill’s autobiographical account of a day in the life of his family when he was a young man. He changed the characters’ last name to Tyrone, but the content of the play traces his memories of the impact that alcoholism, drug addiction, illness, instability, and regret had on his real family.
His mother, Mary, (Janet Rich) struggled with a morphine addition; he depicts his actor father, James, (Mark Bernstein) as a sell-out; and his troubled brother, Jamie (Adam Weakley) further complicates the family dynamic. The playwright’s character, who he calls Edmund (Nathan Evans), must face the possibility he is ill. And all the men drink too much—just to name a few of their worries. The PTD Productions cast also includes actress Mary Kowalski, as their maid Cathleen.
Director Tod Barker explains that the relationships in the play are complex. “There is something that holds these people together in spite of the difficult history they share with each other. I always use the word ‘love.’ But at the same time, they cannot help each other out of the fog. O’Neill wrote it later in his career, and by all accounts, he was trying to purge the demons of the memories of his family when he was a younger man by writing this play. It looks back on one day’s time when things were very rocky,” he explains.The dramatic play is heart-wrenching and serious, but Barker says that “it’s not totally depressing.” “There are humorous moments that I hope will have the audience laughing out loud. And the expectations of the day start out hopeful—there is a hint of happiness there—although it surely deteriorates by the end of the night.”
O’Neill died before the play was performed, but “Long Day’s Journey Into Night” went on to have a prestigious history. It won a Pulitzer Prize for drama and a Tony Award for Best Play in 1957, and it has been performed on Broadway and all over the world. The story hit the big screen in a 1962 movie adaptation, starring Katharine Hepburn, Ralph Richardson, Jason Robards, and Dean Stockwell as Edmund. And a 1987 made-for-TV movie starred Bethel Leslie, Jack Lemmon, Kevin Spacey, and Peter Gallagher as Edmund.
The play is known as a great work of American realism. However, in order to make it his own, Barker’s interpretation sometimes breaks from realism in subtle ways. For example, he says that his version “plays up the idea that this is his memory by giving gentle nods to the idea that life goes on after the play ends. There are little techniques that I’m using in the play to show that this was just one moment in his memory.”
Another subtle break from the play’s realism is how Barker designed the set. “The walls aren’t complete and don’t always touch each other, which is kind of like how we remember things in a fragmentary way,” he explains.