“Long Day” Back on Broadway
Eugene O’Neill’s Irish American epic Long Day’s Journey into Night is coming back to Broadway. Oscar and Emmy winner Jessica Lange will join Irish stage and screen veteran Gabriel Byrne as well as Irish American John Gallagher Jr. for the Roundabout Theater Company production, scheduled to hit the Great White Way next spring.
Irish American director and producer Ryan Murphy, best known for the TV dramedy Glee, will also have a hand in the production. The match is more fitting than it may seem on the surface. Murphy and Lange worked together on the last four seasons of the cable smash show American Horror Story. Jonathan Kent is slated to direct.
The play – which has run close to four hours in past productions – is O’Neill’s most brutally autobiographical, purging many of his family demons, from alcoholism and drug addiction to his father’s struggles with money and artistic accomplishment.
Lange will tackle one of the great female roles in the American theater, made famous by Katharine Hepburn on stage and in film – Mary Tyrone, a woman with a veneer of respectability but addicted to morphine.
Byrne will play the role of Tyrone family patriarch James, an actor who has made a fine living performing a single role (just like O’Neill’s own successful father did) but regrets not challenging himself. He is also extremely, um, careful with his money.
This is not Byrne’s first time tackling an outsized O’Neill role. He starred in another Roundabout revival of O’Neill’s A Touch of the Poet. Byrne also starred alongside Cherry Jones in Moon for the Misbegotten.
Long Day’s Journey into Night was not completed until late in O’Neill’s life, though he worked on it for years. It is widely seen as a purging of the many personal demons that drove O’Neill, including the battles he fought with his Irish immigrant father. The play was never actually performed until 1956 – three years after O’Neill died. It was a sensation when it was finally produced, winning a Tony Award as well as a Pulitzer Prize. Not only is the play considered O’Neill’s best, it is often mentioned alongside Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman and Tennessee Williams’s Streetcar Named Desire as one of the greatest American plays. ♦