Long Day's Journey into Night review from 2000

Tuesday, 05 December, 2000
Review by: 
Carol Verburg

Another showcase of British understatement.  In the U.S., this play typically crackles with terrifying passion.  Here, although director Phillips's restrained production allows Jessica Lange to take center stage as a heartbreakingly vulnerable, desperate Mary Tyrone, it also made me wish O'Neill had stopped writing after Act Two.  By then he had said just about everything there was to say about his unhappy family; & the actors'  focus on dialog over action failed to catapult his long, verbose script off the page.  A wrestling match in Act Three woke me up again; but too many scenes had the actors simply sitting in chairs around a table, talking.  Charles Dance, a wonderfully talented actor, made the most subdued James Tyrone I've ever seen -- English, not Irish-American.  For O'Neill fans, this production is worth seeing.  But if you have the choice, see this (or any O'Neill play) in a fringe theater or the U.S. or Ireland instead of the West End.

Most of the popular press liked this productions....THE GUARDIAN says, "You go in expecting an endurance-test; you emerge as if having seen O'Neill's play for the first time." THE DAILY EXPRESS says, that Jessica Lange is "fabulous" and Charles Dance is on "terrific form" and goes on to say "This...is a majestic piece of theatre and does a great play proud." THE INDEPENDENT agreed saying, "Jessica Lange.... can take the breath away on a stage as well as on film....Charles Dance, gives a cleverly low-key performance.....Paul Rudd and Paul Nicholls.. are sensational as the two sons." THE TIMES describes Jessica Lange, Robin Phillips's production and O'Neill's great play as "riveting". THE FINANCIAL TIMES describes it as "Superb" and "a great play". THE EVENING STANDARD headlined, "This haunting journey is a voyage of discovery". TIME OUT says, "Eugene O'Neill's marathon is lit up by Jessica Lange as the addicted mother." THE STAGE describes Jessica Lange as "a stage performer of considerable stature", and says Paul Nicholls "makes an impressive West End debut". However, not all critics gave the show a resounding thumbs up, THE DAILY TELEGRAPH is more luke-warm about the production saying, "This three-and-a-half-hour production takes a good while to draw you in, largely because of some lacklustre turns from Lange's male co-stars.." THE SUNDAY TIMES says, "The Lyric's slushy Long Day's Journey into Night lacks insight or conviction."And goes on to say, "This production feels as if it has been born of routine and fatigue."

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