On Stage — Long Days Journey Into Night at Harrison Hilltop Theatre
Harrison Hilltop Theatre’s current undertaking is Eugene O’Neill’s Pulitzer Prize winning masterwork “Long Day’s Journey Into Night.” The show takes place during the course of one day — from morning to midnight. It centers around a family of four living in Connecticut in 1912. And, it doesn’t take long to realize this family enjoys a drop or two of whiskey. In fact, substance abuse seems to be at the center of their dysfunction.For Harrison Hilltop’s production, Ray Gabica takes on the role of James Tyrone, Senior — classically trained actor and father to the family, who’s also often accused of being a penny pincher.
Jackie Madunic brings an airy with bursts of harsh anger approach to his wife, Mary. Madunic, in my opinion, is the most impressive, as her level of seeming craziness builds, leaving you increasingly wondering what is going on with this woman.
Jason Platt is the eldest son, James. Platt consistently offers a unique style of acting to his roles, which seems as though he’s coming up with the words as he goes, offering an organic nature to his roles.
And, Harrison Hilltop regular James Bleecker is the youngest son, Edmund, who impressed me most by suppressing that boyish charm of his to present a melancholy, sickly character.
Maggie Woolley also offers a headstrong young woman as hired help, who doesn’t mind a sip of whiskey or too, herself.
While individual performances are good, there’s something lacking as an ensemble. There was individual energy, but not an energy between characters, creating somewhat of a disconnect. It may be due to the weight of remembering so much material and only slightly diminishes the experience.
I have to admit, this script is not of a style to my personal liking. But, I think it a disservice to base my entire opinion upon that. This is considered O’Neill’s masterwork for reasons I cannot understand. There is too much rambling and repetition, with a fourth act that’s ungodly long. With a bit of embarrassment, I admit I often lost focus and was often lost due to so much off set action being described rather than shown. Even more stories of something that happened in the past were told, leaving too much to this theatergoer’s imagination.
Still, there is a reason this is O’Neill’s masterwork. And, I’m a big proponent of seeing pieces held in such regard regardless of liking them. Harrison Hillop’s production is good, with a cast that gives its all. I have no reservation recommending “Long Days Journey Into Night” to those with a love of theater and who are willing to invest more than three hours of their time to take in the classic.
“Long Days Journey Into Night” runs August 20-22 and 27-29 at 7:30 p.m. and August 23 and 30 at 2:30 p.m. Tickets are available by calling (309) 235-1654 or through the theater’s website - harrisonhilltop.com