It’s a long, lonely journey for the Tyrones

Posted 3/2/10

Sounds of waves washing against the shore and echoes of distant foghorns set a mood of lonely isolation before Act I begins. The setting is a run …

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It’s a long, lonely journey for the Tyrones


Sounds of waves washing against the shore and echoes of distant foghorns set a mood of lonely isolation before Act I begins. The setting is a run down, isolated 1912 Connecticut summer house on the ocean, furnished with cheap wicker furniture, per the playwright’s directions.

“Long Day’s Journey Into Night” by Eugene O’Neill, a Pulitzer Prize winning, autobiographical tale of a truly long, difficult day in the life of his own boozy, dysfunctional family, is included on any list of top American plays, with good reason. It introduced a new way of crafting dramas and the language throughout is exceptional. Never mind that the thoughts characters convey through that language are distorted, angry and sad — and sometimes humorous.

Staged by the solid Paragon Theatre through March 13 in its new home, a voluminous old showroom that dictates theater in the round, an ensemble of skilled actors portray characters who all have something wrong, which they seek to erase with booze or drugs. Jarrad Holbrook is director and sound designer.

Retired actor James Tyrone is beautifully interpreted by stage veteran Jim Hunt: dwelling on the career that passed him by as a great Shakespearean actor , stingy with his family despite ownership of a great deal of property. “It’s all mortgaged,” he complains, while limiting illumination to a single light bulb. He sweet talks his longtime wife Mary, recently released from rehab, hoping she will stay well. And he sips whiskey all day long.

Kathryn Gray, as a fragmented Mary, succumbs to her morphine addiction again, slowly losing her grip through the day, while the audience braces itself for what’s to come. Focused on herself as a young girl who dreamt of becoming a concert pianist, she is alternately sweet and nasty, a character who will haunt you after the final curtain.

Intellectual younger son Edmund (Brandon Kruhm) is ill and coughing, which his mother, in denial, attributes to a bad summer cold. He and others recognize it as consumption. A source of contention is the father’s insistence on consulting an incompetent, but cheap, doctor and a sanitarium that is cheap.

Whiskey is the remedy of choice here too, as it is with older brother Jamey (Michael Stricker), an unhappy, vicious man, who has never gotten his personal act together and seems to thrive on sniping at parents and sibling.

Holly Ann Peterson plays Irish maid Cathleen, a wholesome sort in contrast to her employers.

Both sons confront their father on almost any topic, as he resorts to Shakespearean lines and Catholic Church references in a self-righteous manner.

David Lafonte of the Arapahoe Community College design faculty consistently delivers well thought out sets for Paragon. Lighting is a challenge in the new space. Jen Orf worked with footlights that shine in audience eyes, but give a sort of otherworldly cast to the stage, which seems appropriate here.

Pacing at times seems slower than needed, but builds tension.

It’s a long troublesome night, but absolutely worth a visit since the script and actors are first rate.

The details

“Long Day’s Journey Into Night” is staged by Paragon Theatre Company through March 13 in its new home at 1385 S. Santa Fe Dr., Denver (turn in at the McDonald’s sign). Performances: 7:30 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays. Tickets: $17 to $21 (2 for 1 on Thursdays)., 303-300-2210.


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