×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

The Long Red Road

The Long Red Road" is a great work for those who adore lovingly detailed depictions of utter misery and despair.

With:
Sam - Tom Hardy Annie - Greta Honold Bob - Chris McGarry Tasha - Fiona Robert Sandra - Katy Sullivan Clifton - Marcos Akiaten

The Long Red Road” is a great work for those who adore lovingly detailed depictions of utter misery and despair. Brett C. Leonard’s play — directed at Chicago’s Goodman Theater by Philip Seymour Hoffman and starring rising British thesp Tom Hardy — mires us deep in the cycle of alcoholism, abuse and co-dependency. The intensely moody drama is slowly paced, intimate and compellingly painful.

Hardy plays Sam, a far-gone drunk living in South Dakota. His angelic girlfriend, Annie (Greta Honold), wakes him up each morning from his stupor on the rug, encourages him to eat something and heads off to her job as a teacher. Sam heads to a bar, sometimes making it home uninjured, sometimes not.

Meanwhile, in Kansas, Sam’s brother, Bob (Chris McGarry), cares for the family Sam left behind following an alcohol-induced accident some nine years earlier that left one of his two children dead and his wife, Sandra (Katy Sullivan), without her legs. But Bob is reaching his own point of despair as Sam’s daughter, Tasha (Fiona Robert), matures into a rebellious teenager.

Hoffman lets all this develop slowly — very slowly — and the playing has a hyper-realistic feel even as the director layers the action in the two locations on top of each other in Eugene Lee’s subtly complex thrust set. It’s a theatrical form of filmic double exposure; the characters inhabit the same space, emphasizing how intertwined they are even as we await the fleshing out of their relations and Sam and Bob’s fraught reunion.

Leonard and the fine cast have these characters down cold, each with his or her own emotional damage.

Hardy is excellent as the handsome, always popular but thoroughly self-loathing guy who has long since given up on giving up the bottle. Honold is relentlessly believable in perhaps the hardest part, the co-dependent enabler, ever drawn to the possibility of saving a damaged guy. McGarry seems constantly at war with himself as the unappreciated older brother. He has managed to subdue his demons and do the right thing, until he finally doesn’t in the show’s disturbing, and typically silent, climactic scene.

From a craft perspective, the play suffers from being a bit predictable, the revelations mildly overforeshadowed and stripped of full dramatic impact. AndLeonard’s writing is not without cliches, in particular the contrived use of Lakota chief Clifton (Marcos Akiaten), who plays bartender and friend, the stoic receptacle for confession. There’s a lot of Sam Shepard in this work, but Leonard doesn’t yet have his sense of the archetype as theatrical metaphor.

And don’t expect any levity to lighten the heavy — and occasionally heavy-handed — load. Leonard and Hoffman are careful to allow no humor, perhaps for justified fear of making light of the subject; no black comedy here, just blackness (or, at least, extremely dim lighting).

It’s a noble choice, but it also has its consequences. It takes a long time to feel these characters have any redeeming features at all.

The show walks a very fine line, and the effort is intriguing and at least partially successful. While it allows you to see the situation as hopeless, it must hold out that tiniest sliver of possibility for a happy ending somewhere in there — that, as the final image of light and smoke suggests, there’s rebirth in destruction and not just more destruction.

The play gets under your skin and convincingly takes you to the most unpleasant of psychic terrains. It ruins your day and, strangely, leaves you wanting more in that unrelentingly human but foolish belief in better tomorrows.

The Long Red Road

Goodman Theater, Chicago; 380 seats; $45 top

Production: A Goodman Theater presentation of a play in two acts by Brett C. Leonard. Directed by Philip Seymour Hoffman.

Creative: Set, Eugene Lee, costumes, Janice Pytel; lighting, Edward Pierce; original music and sound, Ray Nardelli, Joshua Horvath; production stage manager, Kimberly Osgood. Opened Feb. 22, 2010. Reviewed Feb. 21. Runs through March 21. Running time: 2 HOURS, 10 MIN.

Cast: Sam - Tom Hardy Annie - Greta Honold Bob - Chris McGarry Tasha - Fiona Robert Sandra - Katy Sullivan Clifton - Marcos Akiaten

More Legit

  • Ethan Hawke

    Listen: Ethan Hawke on 'True West' and the Ghost of Philip Seymour Hoffman

    Ethan Hawke had a long relationship with Sam Shepard and his work — but he never thought he’d end up on Broadway in “True West.” That’s because Philip Seymour Hoffman and John C. Reilly had already put their stamp on the show in the 2000 Broadway revival of the play. “I kind of felt that that [...]

  • Editorial use onlyMandatory Credit: Photo by

    Kaye Ballard, Star of 'The Mothers-in-Law,' Dies at 93

    Singer-comedienne Kaye Ballard, who starred alongside Eve Arden in the 1960s sitcom “The Mothers-in-Law” and was among the stars of the 1976 feature based on Terrence McNally’s farce “The Ritz,” died Monday in Rancho Mirage, Calif. She was 93. She had recently attended a screening of a documentary about her life, “Kaye Ballard: The Show [...]

  • CAROL CHANNING HERSCHFELD. Actress Carol Channing

    Remembering Carol Channing: A Master of Channeling the Power of Personality

    There was only one Carol Channing, and her outsize personality was a source of delight to many fans — and imitators. Gerard Alessandrini’s stage spoof “Forbidden Broadway” had many incarnations over the years, including the 1994 edition when an audience member was selected every evening to come onstage and impersonate Carol Channing with the cast. [...]

  • Editorial use only. No book cover

    Viola Davis, Lin-Manuel Miranda Among Celebrities Remembering Carol Channing

    Viola Davis, Lin-Manuel Miranda and Bernadette Peters are among the slew of celebrities taking to Twitter to pay tribute to late singer, comedienne and actress Carol Channing. Known for her starring roles in Broadway’s “Hello Dolly!” and “Gentleman Prefer Blondes,” the legend of the stage and screen died Tuesday at her home in Rancho Mirage, [...]

  • What the Constitution Means to Me

    Listen: How Things Got Scary in 'What the Constitution Means to Me'

    For a decade, writer-performer Heidi Schreck had wanted to write a play inspired by her experiences as a teen debater. But over the years the show started to develop into something both urgently political and deeply personal — and things got scary. In the Broadway-bound “What the Constitution Means to Me,” Schreck reimagines her speech-and-debate [...]

  • Carol Channing Dead

    Carol Channing, Star of Broadway's 'Hello, Dolly!' and 'Gentlemen Prefer Blondes,' Dies at 97

    Larger-than-life musical stage personality Carol Channing, who immortalized the characters of Lorelei Lee in “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes” and Dolly Gallagher Levi in “Hello, Dolly!,” has died. She was 97. Channing died Tuesday of natural causes at her home in Rancho Mirage, Calif. Her publicist B. Harlan Boll confirmed the news. He wrote, “It is with [...]

  • 'What the Constitution Means to Me'

    'What the Constitution Means to Me' Transfers to Broadway

    “What the Constitution Means to Me,” a buzzy Off-Broadway production that counts Hillary Clinton and Gloria Steinem among its fans, is making the move uptown. The play will come to Broadway this spring for a 12-week limited run at the Helen Hayes Theater. “What the Constitution Means to Me” is one part civics lesson, one [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content