Loooong Day's Journey

Unfortunately, this O'Neill play still doesn't have much to say

In this, the company does yeoman work, with occasional dazzling flashes that suggest what could have been with more time and boldness. The casting seems peculiar -- none of these actors bears a resemblance to any other -- and there isn't much chemistry among them. Most do their strongest work, significantly, in their monologues. The redoubtable John Felix fares best as the miserly patriarch Tyrone, who in Felix's hands is pathetic, deplorable, and funny, at times all at once. Felix is a theatrical actor whose considerable rhetorical skills sometimes get in the way of emotional connection.

As Mary, Sally Levin returns to a role that brought her a Carbonell nomination in a New Theatre production of the play in the 1990s. Her stately manner and voice recall the dignified style of Katharine Hepburn, and her quiet descent into madness is certainly troubling. But Levin gives away her character's secret far too early in the story. The production would have been significantly improved had Levin and Lowery given Mary more layers of denial and artifice. As it is, the obviousness of her imbalance takes away whatever mystery that play has.

While Felix and Levin tend to sing their roles, Keith Cassidy as Jamie and Euriamis Losada as Edmund approach theirs in another style, with low-key naturalistic performances. The effects are uneven. Cassidy appears miscast at first, as his Jamie seems more of a sad-sack schlub than a restless prowler; but his second-act confession scene with his brother certainly has power. Losada's Edmund is honest and open, but his low-key approach sometimes is so laid-back, he drifts off the stage altogether, as in his extended monologue about his seafaring days.

Careful staging doesn't work, buddy
Careful staging doesn't work, buddy

Details

Presented through October 19. Call 305-443-5909.
New Theatre, 4120 Laguna St, Coral Gables

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The latter sequence is not served well by Gregory D. Sendler's sometimes intrusive, often annoying musical underscoring, a wan New Age pastiche of traditional Irish refrains. Michael McKeever's detailed set echoes the overall production -- it's well-crafted and says nothing. Credit Travis Neff with some delicate mood lighting (does anyone else light shows in South Florida?). Estela Vrancovich again comes through with a superior costume design, all whites and creams and occasional touches of red, like splotches of blood on a handkerchief.

Would that New Theatre had dared to reveal more blood in this production, which more resembles the old New Theatre than the post-Pulitzer one. The company and its thoroughbred string of playwrights are following in the footsteps of O'Neill's work with the Provincetown Players. This honors O'Neill's legacy and serves the public better than serving up excessively reverent productions of his work. On to O'Neill's heirs -- Cruz, Diament, and McKeever.

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