Reviewed by Judy Richter
With all of the action taking place in one day in one place, "Long Day's Journey Into Night" is Eugene O'Neill's agonizing autobiographical look at his family when he was in his 20s. Using a carefully pared text, Jonathan Moscone directs a compelling production of this masterpiece for San Jose Repertory Theatre.
The action takes place in the living room of the Tyrone family's summer home along the coast of Connecticut in August 1912. The day begins cheerily enough with a loving exchange between parents James Tyrone (Paul Vincent O'Connor) and Mary Tyrone (Kimberly King) after breakfast. The mood quickly turns volatile with the entrance of their two sons, Jamie (Mark Anderson Phillips) and Edmund (T. Edward Webster). Mostly Jamie, the elder, and Edmund, the playwright's character, argue with their father. Jamie has a serious drinking problem and frequents dives and brothels, while Edmund has a wracking cough that Mary nervously says is just a summer cold. The men of the family know better, however; it's consumption, now called tuberculosis. Mary is nervous, accusing the others of watching her all the time. She returned from a sanatorium about two months ago to overcome a morphine addiction.
Act 2 takes place shortly before lunch. Mary has begun talking nonstop, a sure sign that she has relapsed. As the day progresses until nearly midnight, each family member's private pains come to the surface. The boys accuse their father of being a cheapskate, but he recounts a childhood of abject poverty. Mary is lonely, lamenting the fact that the family never had a real home because James is a successful actor who's on the road all the time. Despite all the pain and anger, though, there's an undercurrent of love.
Moscone and his cast, which also includes Sarah Nealis as the family's Irish maid, Cathleen, ride the play's emotional roller coaster well, taking the audience on their journey. King is magnificent as Mary plunges back into the ravages of addiction. Webster and O'Connor nicely underplay their roles, but Phillips plays Jamie's drunkenness a bit too broadly. Annie Smart's set, Lap-Chi Chu's lighting and Steve Schoenbeck's sound are effective, especially in evoking the fog that's almost another character in the play. B. Modern's costumes also are apt, especially Mary's dresses.
"Long Day's Journey Into Night" is a powerful, often harrowing drama, and San Jose Rep does it full justice.