Long Day's Journey Into Night | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

Long Day's Journey Into Night 

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LONG DAY'S JOURNEY INTO NIGHT, Excaliber Shakespeare Company, at the Heartland Studio Theater. At 200 minutes, Excaliber's version of O'Neill's memory play rivals the eloquent 1996 Touchstone production only in length: never has the journey seemed so long. The drama requires a grounding in human pain that can't be approximated; technique won't fill the bill, and Darryl Maximilian Robinson's staging substitutes volume for vulnerability.

Though a great play can't be crushed by a theater's failure, this production comes close to sinking O'Neill in his own excess. The problem begins and ends with Robinson's portrayal of James, the skinflint patriarch. Robinson, a latter-day Sir Henry Irving, embodies the grandiloquent bombast of a thespian ham with his volatile mix of adenoidal warbling and blowhard bellowing. But he doesn't know when to stop acting and show us James catching on to himself. The character's lacerating self-exposure--which is not the same thing as self-pity--never happens, and in its absence Robinson's mugging is irritating and irrelevant.

Too young and too hopeful for dope addict Mary Tyrone, Danielle Gordon seems more peeved than haunted and wanes agreeable when she should wax anguished. Steven Wilson plays defeated soul Jamie, the Broadway bum, with a hangdog look but too much exuberance; his drunk scene should be a descent into hell, not an audition for a hangover. Only Ian Vogt as the author's surrogate, Edmund, anchors his character in the hard-edged reality of a tubercular dreamer. --Lawrence Bommer


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