WESTON, Vt. – “A Long Day’s Journey Into Night” by Eugene O’Neill is the tale of one day in the life of James Tyrone and his Irish Catholic family. This story is actually O’Neill’s autobiography. Actor Derek Smith plays James. The setting is the summer home along the coastline where the sound of the foghorn and the layers of fog enfold the cottage. Mr. Tyrone is a retired famous actor who at one time toured throughout the United States with his wife Mary. Because his father abandoned him at a young age, he was forced into supporting himself, manifesting in a frugal lifestyle.
The play begins with Mary, played by Kathryn Meisle, returning home after treatment at a sanatorium for her addiction to morphine. The drug was first prescribed 20 years earlier to relieve the pain after childbirth. However, she is in denial of her dependence and believes that because of her rheumatoid hands she still needs the drug for discomfort. Also she blames James for much of her unhappiness. Because of his stinginess, Mary accuses her husband of sending her to an inferior doctor for her postpartum discomfort. She longs for a real home instead of all the various hotels they stayed at while he was touring. After spending her youth pursuing the vocation of a nun and a concert pianist, she acknowledges her love for her husband. However, she also blames him for giving up on her dreams.
The youngest son, Edmond, played by Andrew Veenstra, is portrayed as suffering from consumption (tuberculosis). Mary perceives his frequent coughing fits as simply a bad cold. Since her father died from the same disease she refuses to admit that Edmond’s illness could possibly be anything worse. Throughout a great portion of this day, the family is awaiting word on a diagnosis, again by a mediocre doctor. His stingy father will not take him to a more capable and expensive physician. Even though he knows alcohol is harmful to his illness, Edmond continues to consume several tumblers of whiskey during the day and into the night.
Jamie Tyrone, played by Liam Craig, is the eldest son. He is such a disappointment to his father because of his lack of ambition. He is supported by his dad but spends his money on women and whiskey. After spending time with an overweight prostitute, Jamie returns home drunk and confronts his relationship with his brother Edmond. He admits to his love-hate bond with his brother Edmond, acknowledging his jealously and resentment.
The family maid is Cathleen, played by Piper Goodeve. She spends some time in the afternoon listening to Mary reminisce about her childhood. She accompanies Mary into town and even obtains Mary’s morphine drug at the pharmacy. She also enjoys a swig or two of a wee dram.
This is a story of substance abuse, specifically of morphine and alcohol, and the complications that addiction has on a family’s dynamics. There is always the tendency to blame one’s shortcomings on everyone else, never realizing that one’s own troubles can be attributed to a dependency on painkillers.
This play is considered Eugene O’Neil’s masterpiece. He won the Nobel Prize in literature and was awarded his fourth Pulitzer Prize posthumously for “Long Day’s Journey Into Night.” He also received a Tony award for Best Play.
“A Long Day’s Journey into Night” is a Eugene O’Neill classic and is worth seeing. It’s still running through Sept. 3 at the Weston Playhouse on the Village Green at 12 Park Street in Weston. Show times are Tuesday through Saturday at 7:30 p.m., Wednesday and Saturday matinees at 2 p.m., and Sunday matinees at 3 p.m. Tickets can be purchased by calling the box office from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at 802-824-5288 or by visiting westonplayhouse.org.