Though rehearsals won’t start for another year, definitive plans are being made to bring Brian Dennehy, a Tony winner for the recent Death of a Salesman revival, back to Broadway. As reported in the New York Times (Dec. 8) and confirmed by producer David Richenthal, Dennehy has committed to playing the stingy but many-sided James Tyrone in Eugene O’Neill’s masterwork, Long Day’s Journey Into Night.
Producer Richenthal has been talking about the project “for several years” with director Robert Falls (Salesman), and they’ve agreed to start it at Chicago’s Goodman Theatre, January 2002, with plans to journey Journey to a Jujamcyn house in March 2002.
Few further details on the producition are available, though Richenthal says he’ll be meeting soon with Falls to choose a design team, and that he feels it’s unlikely the play (which tends to run in the three-to-four hour range) will see substantial cuts.
Actor Dennehy, who just recently finished the mini-tour of Salesman, is the veteran of many films, including "First Blood" and "Cocoon," as well as stage productions of Galileo and The Iceman Cometh.
This production of Journey is not connected to the highly acclaimed, current London revival with Jessica Lange that has had critics clamoring for a transfer. Producer Richenthal owns the rights to a Broadway mounting, and he’s not ready to announce who will play the drug-addled Mary Tyrone. O’Neill’s crowning achievement (following such classics as The Iceman Cometh, Mourning Becomes Electra, Ah, Wilderness! and Anna Christie), Long Day’s Journey turns the playwright’s autobiography into a never-ending cycle of family pain, retribution and forgiveness. James Tyrone was once an actor with great promise but became a hack by playing the same popular role over and over again instead of expanding his repertoire. He’s far from poor but his stinginess has impacted his family, from the tubercular son who might have to go to a less-than-topnotch sanitorium, to hiring a less-than-stellar doctor years before to tend to his pregnant wife — a decision that led to her continuing morphine addiction. Add to that another son who’s a ne’er-do well alcoholic, and you have the makings of a piteous, yet horrifically typical, day in the life of an American family — one that has set the tone for nearly every dysfunctional family drama that came after it.
Recent Broadway productions of Journey included a somewhat streamlined and quickly paced version featuring Jack Lemmon and Peter Gallagher (1986), and a Jason Robards/Colleen Dewhurst starrer (in rep with Ah, Wilderness! at Lincoln Center in 1988. Ingmar Bergman would bring his own Swedish company to Lincoln Center with the play in 1991. A recent Hartford Stage mounting featured Ellen Burstyn and Andrew McCarthy.
Winner of the 1936 Nobel Prize for literature, O’Neill penned Long Day’s Journey Into Night in 1940 but demanded that it not be staged during his lifetime. The play wasn’t produced until 1956.
— By David Lefkowitz