Long Day's Journey, Les Waters' Debut as Artistic Director, Opens at Actors Theatre of Louisville

By Kenneth Jones
October 11, 2012

Obie Award winner Lisa Emery plays drug-addicted Mary Tyrone opposite David Chandler as aging actor James Tyrone in Long Day's Journey Into Night, opening Oct. 11 at Actors Theatre of Louisville. Director Les Waters' physical production mimics the quality of a "rehearsal room," with players feeling their way through broken lives. 



The run, which began Oct. 9 and plays through Oct. 29, marks director Waters' first production there as new artistic director of the three-venue organization. The Pulitzer Prize-winning classic by Eugene O'Neill dips into the author's own family history to tell of the dysfunctional Tyrone family, including James and Mary's grown sons James, Jr. (played by Michael Bakkensen) and Edmund (played by John Brummer).

Given that the Tyrones are a theatre family, "I wanted to somehow extend that idea," director Water said in production notes. "The play is like an endless rehearsal; it feels like the characters are trying to move forward, but they'll be rehearsing this play for the rest of their lives."

The set (designed by Antje Ellermann) is a platform that represents the footprint of a house with a sitting room, veranda porch, and stairs, but there are no literal walls or stairs, according to ATL. When the actors leave a scene they retreat to the edge of the stage — like a rehearsal room. "Increasingly," Waters said, "I've become really interested in watching what happens in rehearsal rooms. There's something about them that's open-ended, filled with limitless possibility."

Performances play the Pamela Brown Auditorium at Actors Theatre, in downtown Louisville, KY. 

"It's a titanic play for a quartet of extraordinary actors," Waters, an Obie Award-winning director, said in a statement. "It's the greatest play about family of all time, a play about love's struggles and confusions and failed promises. For me, it's a play about absence, about a mother who cannot be there in the way that her family needs her to be — as well as their guilt and anger that they are part of the problem, and their loving confusion about how to be part of the solution."

Les Waters

According to ATL notes, "Over the course of one fateful summer day, renowned actor James Tyrone, his troubled wife Mary and their two sons wrestle with resentment so deep — and a love so fierce — that it threatens to consume them. O'Neill's play is both a poem of forgiveness to his own family, and one of the legendary achievements of American drama."

This is New York actress Emery's debut at the Tony Award-winning Actors Theatre of Louisville. Her Broadway credits include Relatively Speaking, The Women and Present Laughter. The Lortel and Drama Desk Award nominee also appeared in Off-Broadway's The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, Iron, Marvin's Room and the recent Sex Lives of Our Parents and Lonely, I'm Not.

Chandler and Brummer most recently appeared in Waters' production of John Logan's Red at Berkeley Repertory Theatre, where they played Mark Rothko and Ken, respectively. Chandler appeared on Broadway in American Clock, Death of a Salesman and Lost in Yonkers.

Bakkensen makes his debut at Actors Theatre having previously appeared at Arena Stage, Guthrie Theater, La Jolla Playhouse, Alliance Theatre, American Conservatory Theatre and Alabama Shakespeare Festival. His New York credits include Festen, Noises Off and The Man Who Came to Dinner and Off-Broadway's The Paris Letter and Waxing West.

The creative team also includes Lorriane Venberg (costume designer), Matt Frey (lighting designer) and Richard Woodbury (sound designer).

Actors Theatre last staged O'Neill's masterpiece in 1973 as part of its tenth anniversary season. The production was directed by Jon Jory and featured Jory's parents, Victor Jory and Jean Inness, as James and Mary Tyrone.

Read more about Les Waters' upcoming first season at Actors Theatre of Louisville

For ticket and information, visit ActorsTheatre.org.