(Feingold’s article appeared on Theatermania, 6/17.)
Long Day's Journey Into Night haunts America for so many reasons.
Climate change has greatly diminished the thick morning fogs that used to roll in from Long Island Sound, covering the Connecticut shoreline around New London with a blanket of woolly gray. In the two decades or so that I spent working at the O'Neill Center, as a dramaturg for the National Playwrights Conference and teaching in the National Critics' Institute, we used to call them "Mary Tyrone mornings." By midday the fog had usually burned off, but would often roll in again toward evening. We O'Neillites knew from experience exactly why the fog gets Mary Tyrone so depressed, and how frightening it can get at its thickest. I remember taking a late-afternoon stroll along Waterford Beach, which adjoins the Center, with two visiting friends. As we walked, chattering about theater, a high-density fog rolled in behind us. When we turned to go back, we found ourselves walking in near-total darkness calling out to one another, and sometimes joining hands, to stay together as we stumbled along our way.
The Center itself has a haunted past that links to O'Neill's own. Its site, in Waterford, just outside New London, was once the estate of the railroad tycoon Edward Crowninshield Hammond, who, with his near neighbor, the Standard Oil millionaire Edward S. Harkness, possessed this prime stretch of Connecticut shoreline. They frequently had to chase trespassers — including the young Eugene — from its attractive beach. When you walk on the beach at night, the lights of the nearby Ocean Beach amusement park twinkle in the distance — just as they do when Richard Miller meets his Muriel in O'Neill's Ah, Wilderness!