Here’s why you should see ‘Long Day’s Journey into Night’ off Broadway
The Minetta Lane Theatre may look unassuming from the outside, but it’s currently housing an epic production: Audible Theater’s revival of Eugene O’Neill’s magnum opus, Long Day’s Journey into Night. Inspired by O’Neill’s own family, the play follows one day in house of the Tyrones, each of whom is battling an addiction, illness, or a deep regret. In this new production, helmed by Tony-nominated Slave Play director Robert O’Hara, the action is set in 2020, where the stress of the pandemic and sudden quarantine are what turns the family’s tensions to the max.
Long Day’s Journey into Night is widely considered not only O’Neill’s best work, but one of the best American plays of the 20th century. The play has won countless awards and has an immortal place in the pop culture canon. There are multiple starry stage and screen adaptations, and this one’s no exception. Even the house the show is set in is now a public museum! Now is your chance to catch this masterpiece live — and here’s why you’ll be glad you did. We’ll even let the stars tell you for themselves.
Eugene O’Neill is iconic.
O’Neill had a long journey of his own as a playwright, though his work couldn’t be more different than the raucous comedy (The Book of Mormon) now in the Broadway theatre that bears his name. Between 1914 and his death in 1953, he wrote 31 full-length plays, 21 one-acts, and more, mostly tragedies. Four of these won the Pulitzer Prize, and all his work earned him a spot in the American Theater Hall of Fame. O’Neill has even been the subject of some scripts — Jack Nicholson received an Oscar nomination for playing him in the 1981 movie Reds.
Long Day’s Journey into Night has won tons of awards.
If public opinion about Long Day’s greatness isn’t enough, the play has earned plenty of trophies to prove it. Between its five Broadway productions since 1956, Long Day’s Journey into Night and its various casts have received 7 Tony Awards and 24 nominations; 6 Drama Desk Awards and 14 nominations; 3 Outer Critics Circle Awards; 2 Theatre World Awards; and a New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award. Oh, and did we mention that O’Neill won the Pulitzer Prize for his play?
And as such an iconic play, Long Day’s Journey has been adapted for the screen several times — and it’s no wonder that those were awards darlings, too, all over the world. Katharine Hepburn won Best Actress at the Cannes Film Festival and received an Oscar nomination for playing Mary in the 1962 film. In England, Laurence Olivier won an Emmy for playing James in a filmed version of a stage performance there. And in Canada, the 1996 film adaptation swept the acting categories in the country’s Genie Awards for film excellence.
This production takes place in 2020.
Without changing O’Neill’s dialogue or setting, O’Hara has set the play in 2020, when the Tyrone family turns to their various vices because they’re all in quarantine together. He has changed the costumes to look like what we might have worn while stuck in our houses: “I’m not wearing a corset with a white wig in a bun,” actress Elizabeth Marvel said of her character, Mary. “I’m wearing sweatpants.”
We get it — after nearly two years and counting of living through the pandemic, a lot of us are looking for an escape at the theatre, and reliving the early days of pandemic stress might be the last thing we want to do. But O’Hara hopes that people “come into the work with an open mind.”
“My guess is that there will be people that will reject [the play], or it’ll make them very uncomfortable because they don’t want to go to that place again,” added Bill Camp, who plays James. “Or they’ll lean into it because suddenly this play — which at times can historically feel arcane or old time-y just by virtue of the language and and the way it’s usually presented — it may become more accessible for people.”
Jason Bowen, who plays Jamie, noted that Long Day’s Journey can be cathartic, and that shared experience might offer that sense of community we’ve all been missing. “They can walk away knowing that for that one family, there are millions of other families that had, if not that same experience, they had a version of this,” he said. “A lot of people went home and stayed with their family, so a lot of people have that story. It may not look like this, but they will have that relatability.”
The play has an all-star cast.
Stars of stage and screen have come together for this Long Day’s revival — including real-life spouses Camp and Marvel as the married Tyrone couple in the play. You might recognize Camp, an Emmy and Tony nominee, from popular films and TV shows like Lincoln (where he also played alongside Marvel), 12 Years a Slave, Molly’s Game, Joker, and The Queen’s Gambit, to name a few, or from his Tony-nominated Broadway performance in The Crucible.
“I did Long Day’s Journey into Night at the American Repertory Theatre in the mid- to late 90s,” Camp said. “I played the part Jason’s playing, the older brother Jamie. I didn’t really understand a lot of what the father was going through obviously when I was in that world as the oldest son. And now, as as a father in real life and married to the woman who’s playing my wife in the play in real life, it’s a completely different experience for me.”
And Marvel, an Obie winner and Drama Desk nominee, has starred on screen in The District, House of Cards, and Homeland, and on stage in Broadway and Off-Broadway shows like The Seagull, Top Girls, Picnic, Thérèse Raquin, Misalliance, and, most recently, King Lear opposite Glenda Jackson.
“There was a part of me before “the rapture,” which is what I call [the pandemic], that I was very disenchanted with theatre. I didn’t want to do it anymore. I had lost the love of it,” Marvel said. “And this process has been so radical for me. I’ve never been in such an egalitarian rehearsal room. I’ve never been in a room where everyone’s voice is equal … I’ve been doing this a long time. But as a woman, I have to fucking fight to speak. I have to fight to be heard, and [in this production] I do not. There’s always time and space made for everyone.”
Playing their sons are Bowen, who debuted on Broadway in The Play That Goes Wrong, and Ato Blankson-Wood, a Tony nominee and breakout star from Slave Play on Broadway, as Edmund.
“Doing this production is actually the first time I actually got a chance to read the play at all,” Bowen said. “To me, even though it was written back in the 40s, it’s still a real contemporary story because of the story about a family that’s just falling apart at the seams — there’s so much love in there, but it gets masked by all their hurt. And that’s a tale that gets told throughout the history of time.”
“I don’t really get to do a lot of American classic work. So I jumped at the chance — this is something different that I haven’t done before,” Blankson-Wood said. “It just feels good to be doing something that I know there will be people in the audience who will have a connection to this experience, a connection to being in lockdown with your family again after a long time and what that brings up. That’s really exciting to me, to know that there’s no way that this will won’t be impactful, and I think we’ll really see ourselves in this play.”
You’ll see the play in an intimate theatre.
Most major Long Day’s Journey into Night productions in New York have happened on Broadway, but this revival is at a smaller Off-Broadway house: the 391-seat Minetta Lane Theatre in Greenwich Village. In such an intimate space, you might feel like you’re practically with the characters in their house, which might be unsettling, but makes for a captivating theatre experience no matter what. To use Camp’s metaphor for Long Day’s Journey as “a four-lane highway happening inside this little room,” you’ll be in the thick of the traffic.
You can “hear” it first.
Audible Theatre produces this production of Long Day’s Journey, which means that the show will be captured as an audio experience that anyone can enjoy through Audible. This landmark program helps make theatre more accessible and democratic, and how often do you get the unique experience of seeing a show and then listening to it later? Get your tickets today, and you can say you heard it first.