Edmond Chibeau looks at performance and theatre from the avant-garde communication perspective

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Location: Mansfield, Connecticut, United States

Tuesday, May 01, 2018

Long Day’s Journey Into Night

Reviewed by Edmond Chibeau
Flock Theatre at Monte Cristo Cottage, New London
28 April 2018
Derron Wood, director
With: Christie Williams as James Sr.; 
Anne Flammang, as Mary; 
Victor Chiburis, as Edmund; 
Eric Michaelian as Jamie; 
Madeleine Dauer as Cathleen.
Monte Cristo living room

This production takes place in the actual living room of O’Neill’s childhood home at Monte Cristo Cottage in New London. Seeing the play in the room where the events actually took place give us an uncanny feeling of eavesdropping on the family. The room is small, so the audience is limited to 26 people.

The performance I attended started at 9 in the morning and ended at about 9 at night. Director Derron Wood wanted the light to be entering the room at the angle it would have been when these events took place in the life of the O’Neill family. Stage directions in the script list Act 1 at 8:30 a.m., Act 2 at around 12:45 p.m., Act 3 at around 6:30, and Act 4 at around midnight. 

There was only one great performance in the production; it was given by all the actors working together.

Every performer on stage played their part to perfection, and more importantly, they were all acting in the same play. Often when we go to the theatre we see as many different versions of the script as there are actors.In this case the cast was united in their interpretation. 

No grandstanding, no upstaging!

To achieve that kind of unity, we need both a director who is able to communicate his particular understanding of the script to the players, and actors who are willing trust each other.

Actors must listen to each other and live in the moment that is happening on stage. They must live the moment and allow the audience to see it, hear it, and share it.
The actors must also trust the audience to stay with them. When they fail to trust the audience the performers “indicate” what they are feeling rather than live it. Each actor must be generous with the other actors and with the script they are performing.

To be an actor you need a strong enough ego to be able to put up with rejection at auditions, and still believe you can share your insights with a large number of people. At the same time you need to be self-sacrificing enough to bend your personality to the character you are attempting to portray, and to share the stage with your fellow actors.The actor must decide if the script is to be a vehicle for pyrotechnic display of thespian prowess, or if that actor is to be the interlocutor who helps the audience feel the play.

To achieve this higher calling, as this cast does, the actors must be yoked together in a kind of emotional performance-yoga where each harnesses and enlivens the energy and intelligence of the other. (The words yoke and yoga have the same Indo-European root)

That performance-yoga must link the energy of the whole team. 

The script is full of transitions that take place in the middle of a speech. The characters emotions are whipsawed back and forth in a matter of moments. 

To try to do this on stage in a thousand seat theatre would require a kind of broad-gesture melodramatic acting that is anathema to Eugene O’Neill’s vision of the dramatic art, but is the cornerstone of his father’s approach. 

There are no stars in the play written by O’Neill, nor in this production directed by Derron Wood. But there is a constellation of integrity to be found in both the characters and the actors. 

Preston Whiteway, Executive Director of the Eugene O’Neill Center took a chance in allowing this production to take place in Monte Cristo Cottage. He was rewarded with a great production that should be repeated as a yearly event.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

seeing the O'Neill related places in New London was an added attraction

Thursday, May 03, 2018 1:50:00 PM  

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