I saw *Long Day’s Journey Into Night* at BAM on 5/12/18. My high school theatre director, Mrs. Shreves, called this play *Long Night’s Journey Into Day,* and she had THAT right - - though this production was only three hours and twenty minutes long, not the usual four hours. They saved a lot of time by only having one intermission (the current Broadway production of O’Neill’s *The Iceman Cometh* has three intermissions), and though that made each half very long, I was sitting on the aisle, so I didn’t mind. I’d rather be home a half hour earlier.
It was a production from the Bristol Old Vic, directed by Richard Eyre. The mother and father were played by Jeremy Irons and Lesley Manville, and the sons played by Matthew Beard and Rory Keenan. I don’t have much to say about the actors who played the sons - - they both did a good job but understandably gave center stage to the actors playing their parents.
Eyre made a brilliant and unsettling choice at the start of the play: this is the darkest of family dramas, but he set the opening tone as airy and light, like a Noel Coward play. That melted away, and the general tone for the rest of the show went more in the direction of Realism than Drama. A valid choice, but I thought it lost a lot of the impact and the poetry.
The most striking thing about the production was the set design. It felt a little too Scandinavian Modern at first, but displayed its (literally) many colors as the show went on. The set gave the poetry to the play.
Jeremy Irons played the father as your standard issue self-absorbed windbag. Again, a valid choice, but there’s more there. Lesley Manville gave a powerful, lyrical performance, but didn’t really convey the different states of her character. I know it’s wrong to compare productions, but in the recent Broadway production, Jessica Lange really communicated the times when her character, a morphine addict, needed a fix, just had a fix, or was about to get a fix. Manville was jittery and manic all the time, and that progression was lost.
But, rather like *La Boheme,* the work itself is so strong that you can’t really do it much harm. I sometimes end my reviews with a guided tour through the various productions of a piece that I’ve seen, and in this review (since I’ve only seen one previous production), I’ll mention the productions I WiSH I’d seen. Vanessa Redgrave, Brian Dennehy, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Robert Sean Baker did it on Broadway in 2003. I decided to save my money (never a good choice). Laurie Metcalf did it in London in 2011. But if I’m going to set my sights really high, I wish I’d seen the Royal Dramatic Theatre of Sweden production that came to BAM in 1991, directed by Ingmar Bergman and starring Bibi Andersson...
[Photos by Richard Termine, courtesy of the BAM Press Office]