"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, despite American producer David Richenthal's efforts to secure the Oscar winner's services for a Chicago-to-Broadway mounting of the O'Neill classic. Kenright backed an acclaimed 2000 West End version of the drama starring Lange and, at one point, had hoped to bring the show to the U.S. — that is, until he discovered Richenthal owned the American rights to the play.
Well, Kenright was right after all — but not for want of Richenthal's trying. According to the June 21 Variety, Lange will not appear in director Robert Falls' new mounting because "the dates didn't work out for her." Richenthal commented only, "We're looking elsewhere."
Earlier this year, Falls went on the record as saying, "I told [Lange] I'd love it if she would consider playing it." Falls also mentioned that Philip Seymour Hoffman and Billy Crudup were in contention to play the two Tyrone sons. For her part, Lange had said, "I'm not through with Mary [Tyrone] yet."
Richenthal and Falls have agreed to start the venture at Chicago’s Goodman Theatre, in January 2002, with plans to take Journey to a Jujamcyn house in March 2002. 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.
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.