All in the family

'Long Day's Journey into Night'

Written in tears and blood”-such were the words Eugene O’Neill used to describe Long Day’s Journey into Night, a monumental autobiographical edifice so vaulted with pain and domestic secrets that he ordered it to remain unpublished until twenty-five years after his death. Based on his own experience growing up as the son of a famous actor and a morphine-addicted mother, the drama gazes unflinchingly at the blame-slinging and self-imposed torments of a family-the Tyrones-over the course of a single day in August 1912. O’Neill died in 1953, and his widow, ignoring his wishes, ushered the script into print in 1956. It became a bestseller and snagged its author his fourth Pulitzer Prize, while the initial mounting, in Stockholm that same year, christened the work as a staple of the modern repertory.

Greatness is no easy burden even for accomplished actors, and it’s not surprising that a trace of self-conscious ponderousness clings to the initial seconds of the Long Day’s Journey now on Broadway. Under the direction of Robert Falls, who landed the 1999 Tony Award for his direction of Death of a Salesman, the production brings together an extraordinary ensemble, including Brian Dennehy-Tony-winning lead of Salesman-and ne plus ultra diva Vanessa Redgrave, making her first Broadway appearance in fourteen years. Rounding out the cast are theatre/film whiz kids Robert Sean Leonard, Tony winner for The Invention of Love...

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About the Author

Celia Wren is Commonweal’s media and stage critic.