(Feingold’s article appeared on Theatermania, 6/10.)
Long Day's Journey Into Night. Though I know and love hundreds of American plays, I sometimes start to think that this is the only American play. It invariably startles me when I encounter people who have never experienced it — on the page, on the stage, in Sidney Lumet's 1962 film, or in one of several televised versions. My surprise isn't a matter of cultural literacy; it occurs because Long Day's Journey seems to belong to us all. I would view that feeling as peculiarly American, except that I know how deeply people in Britain, Ireland, and Scandinavia, especially Sweden, share it. The world premiere took place in Stockholm, and I have heard Swedish theater people refer to Long Day's Journey as "their" O'Neill play.
One Swedish playwright, Lars Norén, became so fixated on Long Day's Journey that he wrote an entire trilogy of plays modeled on it. The last of them, And Give Us the Shadows (1991), actually recapitulates the situation of O'Neill's play a generation later, showing O'Neill himself, frail and aging, stewing in his tormented marriage to Carlotta, and plagued by an unexpected, unwelcome 61st-birthday visit from his two troubled sons, Eugene Jr. and Shane, both of whom would later die tragically.