Tuesday, April 17, 2012

A Review of Arena Stage's "A Long Day's Journey into Night" (and Zaytinya)

Last week I went to the play "A Long Day's Journey into Night" by Eugene O'Neil at Arena Stage.

I've got to be honest...after a long week at work, the thought of sitting through a three-hour play on Friday night was not exactly appealing to me.  I even thought about cancelling so that I could lay on my couch all night in sweatpants instead.  But, not wanting to be that girl for bailing last minute, I decided to rally.  And I'm actually really glad that I did.

I started off the night meeting my date for drinks at Zaytinya.  Having heard good things about Zaytinya, and being a fan of Jose Andres' other local restaurants, I was looking forward to checking out the happy hour.  Of course my indecision about cancelling made me late, but when I arrived my date had managed to score us two seats at the end of the bar.  Sweet.

We ordered drinks. My wine was good, a nice fruity Savingnon Blanc, but I was disappointed to see that there were no happy hour specials.  Come on, Zaytinya.

Zaytinya's cheese platter
We ordered, at the suggestion of my date, the cheese platter.  I looooovvveee cheese platters.  Mostly because I get to nibble and try all sorts of different flavors together.  We also ordered the spanakopita, also my date's suggestion.  The cheese platter?  Delicious.  The spanakopita?  Eh.  Not bad, but nothing to write home about.

The service was a little slow in the bar, and the bartender was less than friendly.  I found it annoying that my date had to ask the bartender to tell us what the various cheeses and sides on the platter were.  But I loved the atmosphere.  Extremely high ceilings.  Minimalist feel.  Professional 30-something crowd.

As we left Zaytinya I noticed for the first time that it has an outdoor patio.  And that said patio was closed.  Which was strange because it was a beautiful night out.  Hopefully they have since opened the patio.  It would be a prime spot for some al fresco dining.

Poste patio

And speaking of al fresco, next we grabbed a quick drink down the street at Poste.

This was my first time visiting Poste's outside patio.  I was uber impressed. 

Lots of comfy couches spread out in an expansive courtyard.  Although $25 + tip for two drinks seemed a little steep.  I guess that's Chinatown, though, right?  No happy hour AND overpriced drinks.  Ohhh wellll.

After finishing up our drinks and looking at the time, we hopped a cab to Arena Stage and ducked into our seats just in time to catch the curtain going up. 

A Long Day's Journey into Night takes place during the summer of 1912.  It's regarded as one of O'Neil's great pieces, and he received a Pulitzer Prize for Drama for the play in 1957.  The storyline follows the day in the life of the Tyrone family at their summer seaside cottage in Connecticut.  The Tyrone family is dealing with many types of addition--- the wife and mother, Mary, suffers from morphine addiction, the younger son suffers from alcoholism.  The two other characters, the father and eldest son, drink throughout the play.

The themes, as you can imagine, are intense.  Each of the characters conceal, blame, and deny their addictions.  Yet at the same time, each truly does want to help the other.  Anyone who has family members that have experienced alcoholism, drug addition, or mental illness can most certainly relate to many of the discussions and interaction that occur in the play.  And if you've been lucky to avoid those issues in your family, you will at least be able to relate to the sibling rivalry and worry over aging parents, which also are discussed in the play.

The highlight of the play was, without a doubt, the lead actress, Helen Carey, who played Mary.  She was outstanding.  Mary's character is intense.  She is up and down, happy and sad, clear-minded and then suddenly very confused and disoriented. Ms. Carey was able to transition into these different states of mind perfectly.  She was incredible to watch.

Not knowing much about Eugune O'Neil, I was unsure what to expect.  Because this play is part of Arena Stage's Eugene O'Neil festival, I saw another one of his plays, "Ah, Wilderness" last month.  You can read that review here.  When I reviewed "Ah, Wilderness,  you will recall that I wrote I was a little bored.  There was just so much dialogue.  Not enough action.

But now that I've seen both plays I realize that this is what O'Neil is known for.  He doesn't have lots of action on stage.  He is all about the words.  And perfectly crafted dialogue.  While I prefer more fast paced plays, recognizing O'Neils skill for dialogue made me not only appreciate Arena Stage's performance of this play, but "Ah Wilderness" as well.

And it also reminded me just how well Arena Stage puts on a show.  The set was detailed and interesting.  The actors flowed and worked well together.  It was a truly spectacular piece of art.

Of course our night didn't end at Arena.  After three hours of sitting still, we hopped a cab to Glover Park's Breadsoda to play pool and drink beer.  But that's a review for a different time.

In the meantime, if you want to see some incredible acting, see this play.  Although long, Helen Carey's performance is worth it.  So worth it.

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