Long Day’s Journey Into Night is one of those plays that you kind of have to commit to. My experience of reading it was more similar to reading a novel than an actual play and the reason for this is not only the length, but the amount of detail O’Neill manages to mine from the character’s lives and magnificently integrate into behavior and dialogue.
For those of you not familiar with the play, Long Day’s Journey Into Night is considered to be probably the most significant work of O’Neill, and is often hailed as his magnum opus. The semi-autobiographical play follows the course of the Tyrone family in seemingly one of the longest days of their lives: littered with disease, addiction, lies, and greed. What is perhaps most haunting about the play is the fact that after reading it the audience feels as if this particularly long day is one of many, sentencing the family to continuous hardship and struggle. I won’t say anything else, because you really need to read it- it’s just one of those plays that you aren’t really an actor unless you do.
The reason that this play is recommended reading is because it is a class-act example of the extent in which characters need to be developed and how their relationships, and the tension created through these relationships, fuel plot; and somehow O’Neill manages to still do it all in a tasteful and subtile way. The material also gives actors an idea of what incredible dialogue can do for character. I often see, particularly in Los Angeles, that actors feel as though they need to add a bunch of “stuff” to their performance in order to compensate for a lack of dialogue or plot (I highly disagree with this, but that is for another day). Long Day’s Journey Into Night provides actors with an optimum example of the power simple words can have, and if their instrument is available enough (connected to need and emotional availability) the dialogue and action does the majority of the heavy lifting. Ultimately, actors will get one hell of a ride out of Long Day’s Journey Into Night.
Buy it here. Or borrow it from someone. You need to read it though. Eugene O’Neill is seriously one of the best.