Late last year, the papers were filled with reports of two productions of Long Day's Journey Into Night vying for the right to come to Broadway. For a while, it seemed the London mounting, produced by Bill Kenwright and starring Jessica 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 journey Journey to a Jujamcyn house in March 2002. What's more, Richenthal holds the rights to produce Journey on Broadway.
Now, 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 will co-produce the play. Falls will direct, with Dennehy as James Tyrone and Lange as Mary Tyrone. Richenthal was travelling in Europe and unavailable for comment. The Goodman Theatre press office did not immediately answer a call.
However, the Newsday report may be just yet another misleading episode in an already murky tale. Kenwright, reached at his office in London, termed the idea of a Kenwright-Richenthal venture starring Lange and Dennehy and directed by Falls as "pure fantasy," and flatly denied any such production was in the works. "The only person directing Jessica Lange in Long Day's Journey in New York will be Robin Phillips," he said.
Kenwright still hopes to bring his version of the O'Neill play to Broadway by the end of the year, the producer told PBOL. He characterized the issue of the rights to the drama as "tricky" and said he planned to meet with Richenthal in the next few days to discuss the matter. He added that the confusion over who held the rights to Journey was something that both producers had felt "let down by."
* Richenthal confirmed to PBOL in December that Dennehy had committed to playing the stingy but many-sided James Tyrone in Eugene O’Neill’s masterwork, Long Day’s Journey Into Night. Few further details on the production are available, though Richenthal said he’d be meeting soon with Falls to choose a design team, and that he felt 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.
The current London revival with Jessica Lange has had critics clamoring for a transfer.
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.