"The only person directing Jessica Lange in Long Day's Journey Into Night in New York will be Robin Phillips," said British producer Bill Kenright last January. Still, American director Robert Falls is campaigning to be the one to pilot the Oscar-winning actress' Mary Tyrone in the United States. "I told her I'd love it if she would consider playing it," in an upcoming Goodman Theatre revival, Falls told Variety. Falls also mentioned that Philip Seymour Hoffman and Billy Crudup were in contention to play the two Tyrone sons.
The news is the latest wrinkle in the ongoing battle between over who will bring the next production of Journey to Broadway. For a while, it seemed the recently closed London mounting—produced by Kenwright, directed by Phillips and starring Lange—was a natural to transfer across the Atlantic. Then, American producer David Richenthal revealed he had been talking about the project “for several years” with director Robert Falls, and they’ve agreed to start it at Chicago’s Goodman Theatre, in January 2002, with plans to take Journey to a Jujamcyn house in March 2002. What's more, Richenthal holds the rights to produce Journey on Broadway.
Newsday reported on Jan. 18 that the Long Day's Journey that makes it to Broadway may be a hybrid of both stagings. According to the news account, Kenwright and the Goodman would co-produce the play, with Falls directing, Brian Dennehy as James Tyrone and Lange as Mary Tyrone. But Kenwright laughed at the notion, telling Playbill On-Line it was "pure fantasy."
Variety reported that Falls saw the London Journey before it closed. "I thought she was quite remarkable," said Falls of Lange, adding that, if she opted to star in the Goodman production, "She'll need to develop a new family, which is a difficult thing to do." Lange told Variety, "I'm not through with Mary yet."
* 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.