|Todd Van Voris and William Hurt in "Long Day's Journey Into Night"|
So, for example, in the case of "Long Day's Journey Into Night," the Eugene O'Neill epic now playing in a provocative production at the Newmark Theatre, you might simply want to know whether everyone else understood what William Hurt was saying, because he achieves some land speed records with the dialog of patriarch James Tyrone. Or maybe it's deeper than that -- what was that particular four hours (not really, more like 3:30 plus intermission) of intensity actually about, pray tell?
The most casual and recent visitor to Arts Dispatch knows this observation is coming from direct personal experience, because I've been prodding and probing the play here since I saw it a week ago, doing a little more reporting on it and a little more research, and then attempting to apply it to the re-reading of the play that director Andrew Upton, the artistic director of the Sydney Theatre Company which originated the production, has devised.
But I know from the advanced analytical devices encrusting this site that I'm not alone. Every night another 900 or so of us see the play, and the next day we're sorting out the Tyrones -- James, his wife Mary and his sons Jamie and Edmund. I think that's because it resists the conventions of our own dramas. This epic doesn't have a happy, therapeutic ending. And this production offers no quarter -- to the cast or to the audience. Whatever the cause, each night's performance brings a new bunch of readers to Arts Dispatch the next day, mostly to read the initial review, according to the advanced analytic devices encrusting the site, but also the ancillary posts.
Maybe this little link summary will speed things up:
The "review": I woke up early Sunday morning after seeing the play last Saturday and wrote about what I'd seen and what I'd been dreaming about, really. It definitely shook me up.
The panel: Monday night I went to Artists Repertory Theatre to hear Upton and Allen Nause of ART, the Sydney company's co-producer, talk about "Long Day's Journey Into Night" and other cross-cultural productions. They were illuminating about many topics, and I tried to make sense of it all.
The revisitation: After some reading, conversing, re-living, reporting and debating, some re-description was necessary, necessary I tell you, necessary. Is "Long Day's Journey" about family crises, alcoholism and/or the malign influence of money? Or is it about Fate itself? Oops. I gave it away. I also tried to come to terms with Hurt's performance, the subject of much debate and some derision.
I wasn't the only one considering this play in text, however.
Marty Hughley at The Oregonian: Hughley registered some disapproval with Hurt's performance, specifically its audibility, but more importantly, I think he was onto something with this sentence at the top of his review: "this rendition of the towering American drama delivers the brutal emotional realism of the text, yet tilts the frame just enough to open it up to something spectral." He doesn't develop what he means by spectral or in what senses this production fits that definition, but I like the thought.
Bob Hicks at Art Scatter: Hicks described the setting perfectly from where I sat: "It was also one of those moments of coalescence when a particular piece of art mattered, whether individual people happened to “like” it or not. One way or another, people were thinking, and arguing, about it — some of them, I imagine, into the wee hours of the morning, when they may or may not have been wearing off a Tyrone-size hangover." He goes into the matter of Hurt at much greater depth at the end of his account, which is quite good.
Alison Hallett at the Portland Mercury: It just didn't seem to be Hallett's cup of tea, this play and this production. She found Hurt "underwhelming" and the whole thing "a long-ass play, and a damn difficult one—I know I wasn't the only audience member who contemplated nodding off as a way to escape Journey's relentless dysfunction." We'd argue with her, but then we already have!
Ruth Brown at Willamette Week: I'm not exactly sure what Brown means here, but I think she might be right: "if you’re ever going to digest this shocking depiction of the playwright’s tragic home life, this is the version to see." As Hughley did, she praises Robyn Nevin's portrayal of Nevin, but she's one of the few dissenting voices on local actor Todd Van Voris's work as Jamie. I wish she'd had a few hundred more words to work things out for us (which also goes for Hallett -- please, dear editors, give the reviewers some space!).
Anne Adams at Culturephile: Adams likes to chop complicated subjects down to size in a series of carefully considered observations, and that's the approach she takes with "Long Day's Journey." It's especially effective if you've seen the show or read some of the other reviews. Good stuff.
Lloyd Bradford Syke at Curtain Call: I have no idea what the "politics" of Australian theater reviewing are, but I found this review of the show's Australian incarnation intriguing in several ways. Yes, Hurt is an issue to Syke, too, and I'm not sure he wrestles sufficiently with what O'Neill's driving at (I wouldn't!), but it's good to get a take from the originating continent.
So, more than enough to feed your own flames after the show ends! But look, I'm not promising that this is the end of it for me. Not a bit.