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

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Long Day's Journey Into Night

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Long Day's Journey Into Night, Touchstone Theatre. Stunning script--Eugene O'Neill's family tragedy packs more truth into any of its 200 minutes than its descendants could ever muster--meets kinetic staging. More a conjuring than a staging, with Katherine Ross's richly detailed set hauntingly lit by Kevin Snow, Jonathan Wilson's revival roots the Tyrones' emotional evasions--sustained by denial, morphine, booze--in their "life lies," as Ibsen called the desperate fictions that save us from reality.

The performances here detonate. As James Tyrone--the thespian patriarch whose miserliness masks his shame about squandered talent, a lost marriage, and the enmity of his suspicious sons--Raoul Johnson seems too broken even to bluster. In the second-act drunk scene, Nick Polus as the failed elder brother Jamie delivers every loser's last attempt at redemption. As the invalid kid brother (and O'Neill surrogate) Edmund, Steven Anderson solidly conveys the only character who endures rather than confesses as he works desperately to keep the others together. The ghostly glory here is Mary Ann Thebus's wounded wife and mother, a woman who wanted to be neither. Her Mary Tyrone shoots dope in increasingly doomed attempts to retrieve the instant when her life seemed headed to holiness. Thebus goes beyond the standard hapless tenderness and treacherous mood swings and mad scenes to deliver a love that's warped but persisting. Acting can dig no deeper.

--Lawrence Bommer

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