You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

L.A. Theater Review: ‘Long Day’s Journey Into Night’

Jane Kaczmarek and Alfred Molina dilute the impact as they rush the dialogue in Eugene O'Neill's marathon memory play.

Angela Goethals, Stephen Louis Grush, Jane Kaczmarek, Alfred Molina, Colin Woodell.

Death, heavy as the fog that surrounds the Tyrone family home and somber as the low sea-monster cry of the foghorn echoing across the water, hangs over “Long Day’s Journey Into Night.” Eugene O’Neill’s soul-baring masterwork played Broadway last season in a revival that won Jessica Lange a Tony, and now haunts the Geffen Playhouse in a separate production. But alas, the West Coast version, starring Jane Kaczmarek and Alfred Molina, goes rather too gently into that good night.

Director Jeanie Hackett softens scenes in which members of the iconically dysfunctional Tyrone clan, based on O’Neill’s own family, have it out with one another. The cast speeds through what could be shouting matches at a clip that makes the characters start to sound like livestock auctioneers rather than sword-drawn rivals. The result is a relatively short “Long Day’s Journey,” as Hackett compresses the nearly-four-hour play into a 200-minute evening that isn’t nearly as unpleasant or shocking as it ought to be, dulled somewhat by more than 60 years of imitation and improvement.

On Tom Buderwitz’s ghostly two-story set, mom Mary (Kaczmarek) shoots morphine in her bedroom upstairs, while her husband James (Molina) and adult sons knock back whiskey in the living room. A thousand miles from the TV-mom role (“Malcolm in the Middle”) for which Kaczmarek is most widely recognized, Mary has recently returned from what today might be considered rehab, though it’s clear to everyone in the house that she’s back on the stuff. To the audience, however, she comes across more as your garden-variety neurotic than the “hophead” and “dope fiend” O’Neill describes, sticking “hypos” in her veins whenever her sons aren’t looking, and oh-so-sensitive to their suspicion when they are.

Poison runs through all the Tyrones’ veins — to each his own — and the whiskey flows freely from well before lunch (for even the maid, played by Angela Goethals, who practically pantomimes her character’s tipsiness). The evening’s only laughs come, rather too easily, from a running gag involving how each sneaks alcohol from beneath the nose of the head-of-house, played by Molina as more empathetic than the role would seem to ask.

In his heyday, James enjoyed fame and fortune as an actor but never greatness, and success never cured him of a stinginess that remains his son’s severest reproach. Obsessed with electricity bills, James lets just one bulb in the chandelier burn, and he seeks bargains when it comes to medical care for his consumptive son, Edmund (Colin Woodell, a handsome, James Franco-esque young actor), sending him to the cheapest doctor and the “state farm” in lieu of a proper sanatorium.

Such grievances belie a lifetime of dysfunctional family dynamics, and the play bears the now-dated signature of mid-century psychoanalysis. Contained herein is the weight of O’Neill’s history with his own family, including a father and a brother who were both actors, the tragedy amplified by the fact that they died a few short years later, before getting the chance to witness what Eugene ultimately achieved in that arena.

Looking back, he is hardest on his brother, Jamie (played here by Stephen Louis Grush), who confesses from the roaring depths of his drunkenness a competitive jealousy so profound, it’s no wonder O’Neill felt he had so much to prove: “It was your being born that started Mama on dope!” he hisses. Hurtful as such words may sound, they echo sentiments the play has already established, suggesting that this long, arduous day is but a repeat of the one before, and the one before that — that these same insults and resentments have been boiling over for years.

In the Geffen’s incarnation, this “Journey” dawns with slides of the O’Neill family projected on screens that flank the set, accompanied by indiscernible audio recordings, presumably of the author himself. It’s practically the only thing that feels unhurried in a production that can be daunting to process as it unfolds, so swiftly do the actors deliver their lines — so much so that at times, they stumble ahead of themselves in the script. At the press preview, Kaczmarek botched Mary’s funniest line, when asked why she, too, didn’t become an actress: “I was raised in a respectable home.” In his most respected play, O’Neill reveals how that wasn’t quite so true of himself.

L.A. Theater Review: 'Long Day's Journey Into Night'

Gil Cates Theater at the Geffen Playhouse; 500 seats; $82 top. Opened Feb. 8, 2017; reviewed Feb. 9, 2017. Running time: THREE HOURS, 20 MIN.


A Geffen Playhouse production of a play in four acts by Eugene O’Neill.

Creative: Directed by Jeanie Hackett. Sets, Tom Buderwitz; costumes, Denitsa Bliznakova; lighting, Elizabeth Harper; composer/sound design, Michael Roth; production stage manager, Young Ji; assistant stage manager, Cate Cundiff; casting, Phyllis Schuringa.

Cast: Angela Goethals, Stephen Louis Grush, Jane Kaczmarek, Alfred Molina, Colin Woodell.

More Legit

  • Alexander Dinelaris

    'Jekyll and Hyde' Movie in the Works Based on Broadway Musical

    The Broadway musical “Jekyll and Hyde” is getting the movie treatment from Academy Award winner Alexander Dinelaris. Dinelaris, who is writing and producing the adaptation, won an Oscar for the “Birdman” script and was a co-producer on “The Revenant.” He is producing “Jekyll and Hyde” as the first project under his New York-based development company, [...]

  • Sam Mendes

    Listen: The 'Balls-Out Theatricality' of Sam Mendes

    If you find yourself directing a Broadway play with a cast so big it includes a goose, two rabbits, more kids than you can count and an actual infant, what do you do? If you’re Sam Mendes, you embrace the “balls-out theatricality” of it all. Listen to this week’s podcast below: “There is a kind [...]

  • James Corden Tony Awards

    James Corden to Host 2019 Tony Awards (EXCLUSIVE)

    James Corden has been tapped to once again host the Tony Awards, Variety has learned exclusively. “The Late Late Show” host previously emceed the annual theater awards show in 2016, and won the Tony for best actor in a play for his performance in “One Man, Two Guvnors” in 2012. “I’m thrilled to be returning to [...]

  • Frozen review Broadway

    ‘Frozen’ the Musical Opening in London in 2020

    “Frozen” the musical is coming to London and will open in the West End in fall 2020. The Michael Grandage-directed Disney Theatrical Productions stage show has been on Broadway for a year. Grandage’s production is now set to re-open Andrew Lloyd Webber’s refurbished Theatre Royal Drury Lane. Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez are behind the [...]

  • Nantucket Sleigh Ride review

    Off Broadway Review: John Guare's 'Nantucket Sleigh Ride'

    Anyone who doesn’t have a cottage on the Cape or the Islands, as they say in Massachusetts, might be puzzled by the title of John Guare’s new play.  “Nantucket Sleigh Ride” is no Revere Beach amusement park ride, but an old whaling term for the death throes of a whale that is still attached to [...]

  • Kiss Me Kate review

    Broadway Review: 'Kiss Me, Kate'

    No, Kate doesn’t get spanked. And for those wondering how the dicey ending of “Kiss Me, Kate” — that musical mashup of “The Taming of the Shrew” and backstage battling exes — would come across in these more sensitive times, well, that’s also been reconsidered for the Roundabout Theatre Company’s Broadway revival of the Cole [...]

  • Betrayal review Tom Hiddleston

    West End Review: Tom Hiddleston in 'Betrayal'

    It takes three to tango, and Jamie Lloyd’s “Betrayal” completely grasps that. Having made it his mission to modernize the way we stage Harold Pinter’s plays, his chic, stripped-down staging starring Tom Hiddleston as a cuckolded husband might be his best attempt yet. Pared back and played out on an empty stage, this masterful play [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content