We’re warned of the fog shrouding the Tyrone family’s summer home each time the fog horn blows. The fog inside the house rolls in on wings of whiskey and morphine, sounding its warning with angry words of blame followed by regrets and apologies.
Eugene O’Neill’s Long Day’s Journey into Night isn’t a bit foggy about the dysfunctional family’s complaints as the drug-addicted mother and the alcoholic father and sons lash out, then retreat in regret before lashing out once more. Oft-heralded as the best play written by an American and presented by a brilliant cast, it demands that we hear them out and learn from their failures.
When all is said and done, one expects to stagger off into the night from somehow absorbing the whiskey downed by the aging actor and his two sons, the boozing/whoring Jamie and the consumptive Edmund. You may also leave with gratitude for this Brigit St. Brigit company, director Cathy Kurz, and four talented actors willing to give the time and energy required to deliver this painful masterpiece.
But, God, can those Tyrones drink and talk, even when they water down the whiskey so no one will notice they’ve been imbibing!
Delaney Driscoll is Mary Tyrone, home from rehab and drifting back into addiction while demanding that her men “stop suspecting me.” Brent Spencer as her miserly husband who begrudges every blazing light bulb, is blamed by his wife and sons, first for causing her addiction by sending her to a cut-rate doctor and now for providing for Edmund’s illness on the cheap.
Each knows full well how the others perceive their shortcomings. Yes, Jamie (Will Muller) knows his father calls him “a Broadway loafer,” and Edmund (Jonathan Purcell) knows his mother blames her addiction on his birth.
And the boys know chapter and verse their father’s regrets about his acting career. Why, Edwin Booth himself praised his Othello, but the promise faded when he bought the rights to a popular play and performed over and over as “The Count of Monte Cristo.”
Brent Spencer, a delightful Sir Toby Belch in Brigit’s Twelfth Night, is convincing in his portrayal of a man who both knows his faults and knows how difficult it is to change his ways. Tyrone promises to be more generous, then reaches up to unscrew a light bulb rather than be “robbed” by the electrical company.
On a Saturday evening, when downtown was jammed with Creighton basketball fans celebrating an afternoon win and University of Nebraska at Omaha hockey fans heading for the nearby Century Link, a nearly full house honored the Brigit mission of offering the best of classic theater. And director Kurz rewarded her audience by assembling a foursome worthy of the script. (Kaitlyn McClincy was fine as the Irish maid, but the Tyrone family does all of O’Neill’s heavy lifting.)
The set design by Eric Griffith and costume work by Charleen J.B. Willoughby helped fulfill the expectation that Brigit productions live up to the quality of an O’Neill script. But most impressive was the fact that two first-time Brigit cast members, Muller and Purcell, weren’t overshadowed by the two prodigious talents, Driscoll and Spencer, playing their parents.
Muller makes the most of Jamie’s weary resignation to all the dysfunction, thanks especially to his compelling voice. Purcell’s Edmund, the son who represents the author, can be the most sympathetic of the lot, but the young actor successfully balances his love for the other family members with his impatience at their failings.
While the men watch in sorrow, Driscoll takes Mary Tyrone adrift on morphine, first denying, then excusing her return to addiction, and finally escaping into long-abandoned dreams. It’s her second big role since returning to the stage, and a triumphant one.
A Long Day’s Journey Into Night runs through March 10, 7:30 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday, at the Brigit St. Brigit Theatre, 1002 Dodge St. Tickets are $25, $20 seniors, students and military. Call 402.502.4910 or visit bsbtheatre.com.