“a ghost haunting the past”

Our first of this year’s Stratford productions was Eugene O’Neill‘s Long Day’s Journey Into Night at the Studio Theatre. I don’t know what this reveals about either my sense of humour or about my attachment to trivia but when my partner asks where something misplaced might be I have been known to reply ‘have you looked in the box beside the wedding dress’ – which he knows is a reference to Long Day’s. 

I have seen at least two versions of Long Days on film – one, I think was a TV version starting Olivier – the other was Hepburn with her hands grasping at nothing in the air and muttering about her wedding dress. All very tragic, melodramatic & talky. But Long Day’s is a surprising contemporary play: addict mother living in blame & shame; alcoholic father living in regret for lost glory; alcoholic son following his Dad’s career footsteps & failing; another drunken son who tried to break free now dying of consumption. All caught in a string quartet of blame, shame, denial & retreating to the past. A few tweaks & this could be today.

I throughly enjoyed this production. The performers played well off each other, though Seana McKenna as the mother held our attention whenever she was on stage, & even when she wasn’t. When she wasn’t I longed for her to be there as the others never felt as invested in their roles as Seana did.

The staging was effective in the intimate space of the Studio Theatre. We had seats in row B so it felt like we were sitting in the room itself. The fog horn was resonant & at times underscored the emotional flow with it’s inevitability & a sense that the family’s emotional fog would always come rolling in.

Although I enjoyed the show I did not find it entertaining. The production was more a museum piece than one that offered us anything fresh in its presentation. The Festival, which has been reimagining classic pieces in ways which challenge audiences, offers no challenge in this production.