How do you take an overlong and excessively talky play that clocks in at nearly three hours (including intermission) and get audiences to pay attention in this era, where everyone seems afflicted by ADD? Simple. Put it in the hands of Joe Parrish, whose mastery of the Great American Drama may be second to none in OC today.
The characters talk and talk and talk in Eugene O’Neill’s autobiographical “Long Day’s Journey Into Night” (at Fullerton’s Maverick Theater through February 1), but all that eloquent booze-fueled talk is what vivifies this portrait of a dysfunctional Irish American family falling apart at the seams. Director Parrish well knows it and allows us to savor it to the fullest, keeping the stage business to a minimum.
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Best of Orange County Theatre 2013
Now on Kindle: Irish Theatre and Solo Performance
Gift Guide: Irish cinema, ‘The Quiet Man’ and the Emerald Isle
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The cast is impeccable, beginning with Parrish himself as James Tyrone, the short-tempered, tight-fisted family patriarch, a former matinee idol (modeled on O’Neill’s father) who’s keenly aware of his failings. “It's a late day for regrets,” as he laments at one point, almost summing up the play, yet voice them he does.
Eric Todd Baesel is dazzling in the showiest role as James Jr., the eldest son whose name is “might have been,” while Jeff Lowe is equally powerful as the comparatively quiet and reflective younger son Edmund (based on O’Neill himself). Rose London is most compelling of all as Mary, the graceful, soft-voiced and all too fragile matriarch, painfully cognizant of the goings-on one moment and lost in dreamy remembrance the next. Melanie Baker is impressive in her small role as Cathleen, the housekeeper. Call (714) 526-7070.
Simpatico with Oregon’s “Keep Portland Weird” motto, Segerstrom Center for the Arts is doing its part to put the offbeat in Orange County, where the third annual Off Center Festival runs January 23-February 2. Anchored by the ingenious Latino comedy troupe Culture Clash (who headline a free party on the plaza January 24 and close the festival with the must-see premiere of their “Keep Culture and Clash On”), the event also offers performance artists Rinde Eckert and Edgar Oliver, Gilbert Castellanos and The New Latin Jazz Quintet, and more. Info at www.scfta.org.
Hot tip: a retrospective of the films of Jean-Luc Godard continues through January at Fullerton’s Hibbleton Gallery (in the Magoski Art Colony), curated by documentary filmmaker Steve Elkins. (714) 420-8524.
More from Jordan:
Best of OC Theatre 2012
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LA Theatre Center, art galleries make Downtown LA newly inviting
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