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Long Day's Journey Into Night

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The Mad Tyrones are at it again. Drinking, fighting, shooting up, and tearing into each other with the expert ferocity that can only come from a family’s twisted intimacy. Eugene O’Neill’s Long Day’s Journey Into Night has long fascinated audiences with its brutal honesty and barely concealed autobiography.

For the Tyrones are unabashedly O’Neill’s family: his father, the famous actor; his mother, the secret dope fiend; his brother, the hard-drinking wastrel; and O’Neill himself, the tubercular poet in love with the sea. O’Neill was certainly exorcising demons with the writing of the play which he did not intend for performance. He instructed his publishers that it was to be published 25 years after his death. His widow countermanded those wishes and published the play three years after his death. Productions followed soon after, and O’Neill was posthumously awarded a Pulitzer Prize for the play.

The current revival of the play at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts is a production first mounted by the Bristol Old Vic. Its starry cast includes Jeremy Irons as James Tyrone and Lesley Manville as Mary Tyrone, the ill-fated parents of the O’Neill stand-in, Edmund (Matthew Beard) and his errant brother Jamie (Rory Keenan).

Director Richard Eyre has brought the play into the 21st Century without subverting the text. The play encourages a grand style of performance, even offering the male cast members near arias when the booze really flows in the final act. But Eyre undercuts the grandstanding with swift tempos and overlapping dialog. The result is a more contemporary sound to the dialog and a noticeably brisker running time.

The plot of Long Day’s Journey Into Night is negligible, the play being more a character study and a merciless dissection of the love/hate relationships in this tortured family. Eyre’s concept makes Mary the driving force in the production. Manville’s compelling and layered performance makes this work, despite the fact that she is offstage for most of the final act. Manville’s Mary makes it quite clear that part of the attraction the drugs she takes is that they lower her inhibitions enough to lash out at the men in her life for their many betrayals. Irons matches her in commanding the stage, but he remains a team player wisely steering clear of the many temptations to chew the scenery. The disappointment Iron’s James feels in his work, his family and, most particularly, his bank account, is palpable in every weary gesture.

Keenan has the charismatic smile and the easy swagger of Jamie. He never overplays the drunkenness, but the character’s emotional life feels a bit sketchy. Beard’s gangly Edmund perfectly fits the role’s physical requirements, and he has no problem accessing his emotions, but hints of the poet to come are less apparent.

None of this diminishes the power of the play nor the strength of this production. The ability to see Irons and Manville on a local stage is quite enough to make this show a must-see.

Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts    June 8 – July 1, 2018    TheWallis.com/LongDays

 

 

 

Spotlight

Laguna Playhouse Announces Ellen Richard as its Interim Executive Director

May 3, 2016…Laguna Beach, Calif…Laguna Playhouse Board of Directors announced today that, later this month, Ellen Richard will be joining Laguna Playhouse as its Interim Executive Director. The Playhouse announced late last year that it was undertaking a national search guided by Arts Consulting Group (ACG) for an Executive Director to succeed Karen Wood who had held this position for the past eight years.

Commenting on the appointment Joe Hanauer and Paul Singarella, Co-Chairmens of the Board of Directors, said “In the midst of our search we encountered this wonderful opportunity to engage Ellen while we continue to seek appropriate long-term leadership. To have found someone with the extraordinary qualifications that Ellen has is thrilling. She is the recipient of six Tony Awards as producer at New York’s Roundabout Theatre Company where she was Managing Director. Ellen also has strong successes in supervising the construction of theatres in New York and also in San Francisco at the American Conservatory Theater, a rare and valuable skill set considering the contemplated major remodel and expansion of the Laguna Playhouse.” Laguna Playhouse Artistic Director Ann E. Wareham adds, “We are pleased and proud to have Ellen Richard, truly a rock-star in our field, join us as our interim Executive Director who will help guide the Playhouse during this transition.” Comments Ellen Richard, “I have quickly grown fond of Laguna Beach and the Playhouse. I embrace this extraordinary opportunity to join one of the country’s top regional theatres at this time in its remarkable 95-year history. I look forward to helping the Playhouse and working with their incredible Board of Trustees and Ann E. Wareham.”

ABOUT ELLEN RICHARD

Ellen Richard served as Executive Director of the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco from 2010 through 2015.  During her tenure, Ms. Richard negotiated a deal to buy the Strand Theater in tech corridor of Mid-Market San Francisco, helped raise the $34,000 million to renovate and operate it and steered the design and construction for the project which opened in May of 2015. The complex featured two performance spaces and has won multiple awards.  She opened the 50 seat Costume Shop Theater, a 49-seat “black box” venue used for the company’s Master of Fine Arts students and for shows by other local companies.  Ms. Richard was also credited with expanding the company’s educational efforts, coming up with programs like the San Francisco Semester, which brings undergraduate acting students to ACT from around the world, and Stage Coach, a community theater mobile unit that reaches into diverse neighborhoods

She was also Executive Director of The Second Stage Theatre in New York City. During her tenure at Second Stage, which began in 2006 (through 2009), she was responsible for the purchase contract of the Helen Hayes Theatre, growth in subscription income of 48 percent, and growth in individual giving of 75 percent, as well as conceptualization of a highly successful gala format and “Second Generation,” a giving program through which donors enable deserving New York City youth to experience live theater. Under Ms. Richard’s leadership, Second Stage provided the initial home for the Broadway productions Everyday Rapture, Next to Normal, and The Little Dog Laughed.

From 1983 to 2005, Ms. Richard enjoyed a rich and varied career with Roundabout Theatre Company. The Roundabout that Ms. Richard joined was a small nonprofit theater company in bankruptcy. By the time she departed as Managing Director, Roundabout had become one of the country’s largest and most successful theater companies of its kind, with net assets in excess of $67 million dollars. Ms. Richard is the recipient of six Tony Awards as producer, for Roundabout productions of Cabaret (1998), A View from the Bridge (1998), Side Man (1999), Nine (2003), Assassins (2004), and Glengarry Glen Ross (2005). As producer of more than 125 shows at Roundabout, she had direct supervision of all management and marketing functions. She created Roundabout’s “Theatre-PLUS” programs, which include singles, teachers, family, gay and lesbian, wine tasting, and the 7 p.m. “Early Curtain” series, all of which grew to represent more than 10 percent of Roundabout’s 40,000 subscribers.

As director of design and construction at Roundabout, Ms. Richard was responsible for more than $50 million of theater construction for 11 projects. She conceptualized the three permanent Roundabout stages — The Broadway venues of Studio 54 and the American Airlines Theatre, and the Off-Broadway venue The Harold and Miriam Steinberg Center for Theatre She directed the location search for Cabaret and oversaw the creation of the production’s environmental Kit Kat Klub. Prior to her tenure at Roundabout, Ms. Richard served as business manager of Westport Country Playhouse, theater manager for Stamford Center for the Arts, and business manager for Atlas Scenic Studio. She began her career working as a stagehand, sound designer, and scenic artist assistant.