The happenings of one day in our lives can make all the difference, or they could just be a snippet of how we really are. American playwright Eugene O’Neill chooses one day in August 1912 to present the Tyrone family to his audience in the play Long Day’s Journey into Night, which will be presented by the Cyprus Theatre Organisation (THOC) as of Saturday.
The Long Day in question refers to the setting of the play, which takes place during one day from around 8.30 am to midnight. The action takes place at the Tyrones’ seaside Connecticut home, where the four main characters interact.
Parents James (a 65-year-old actor) and Mary (who has just returned from treatment for morphine addiction) and their sons Edmund and Jamie are semi-autobiographical representations of O’Neill himself, his older brother and their parents. Mary is addicted to drugs, Edmund is given to bouts of violent coughing (the family increasingly suspect that he may be ill with tuberculosis), while Jamie is promiscuous and unprincipled in sexual matters.
The family are portrayed in a negative light as the parents and two sons express accusations, blame, and resentments. The pain of this family is made worse by their depth of self-understanding and self-analysis, combined with a brutal honesty and an ability to boldly express themselves.
But it is not all bad. The family members do try to show affection to one another, at times they even show a little bit of tenderness and encouragement in an attempt to turn things around. This is true in the last act when, at midnight, Edmund and his father have an intimate conversation. James reveals that he ruined his career by staying in an acting job for money. Edmund talks to his father about sailing and of his aspiration to become a great writer one day. Things seem to be reaching a peaceful moment until the other two family members join the scene and all the three men can do is look at Mary, as she holds her wedding dress and babbles incoherently about the past.
Long Day’s Journey into Night was written in 1941-42 but wasn’t published until 1956. It was premiered in Sweden in the same year as its publication, and then opened in Broadway later that year, winning the Tony Award for Best Play. It is considered to be one of the finest American plays of the 20th century and O’Neill posthumously received the 1957 Pulitzer Prize for Drama for the play.
The classic drama in four acts is directed by Yiannis Houvardas. The performance on May 13 will be with English and Turkish subtitles.
Long Day’s Journey into Night
Performance of the classic drama by Eugene O’Neill. April 22 until June 3. THOC, Nicosia. 8.30pm. In Greek. €12/6. Tel: 77-772717