Posted Online: Aug. 26, 2009, 8:18 pm

Review: 'Long Day's Journey' holds your attention

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By Julie Jensen, celtic@qconline.com

Photo: Submitted
'Long Day's Journey Into Night,' opening Thursday, Aug. 20, at Harrison Hilltop Theatre in Davenport, features, from left, James Bleecker, Jackie Madunic, Ray Gabica and Jason Platt.
Eugene O"Neill"s "Long Day"s Journey Into Night" is autobiographical to a degree, a ghostly play in which the Tyrone family is haunted by the past. It all happens on a foggy summer day in 1912.

It takes place in one room, with a table to hold numerous whiskey bottles and glasses as the addictions of the family become clear. The lonely blasts of a foghorn can be heard.

The title of the Harrison Hilltop Theatre production is literal, with a three-hour running time plus a 15-minute intermission. However, it"s strong theater that holds the attention of the audience.

Ray Gabica was imported to the cast from Western Illinois University -- where he"s a long-time faculty member in the department of theater and dance -- to play the role of James Tyrone, the father, a penny-pinching former actor capable of screaming rage.

Jackie Madunic is Mary Tyrone, the mother who became drug-dependent after the birth of her son, Edmund, and is returning to morphine to ease the arthritic pain in her hands. She loves the fog because, she says, "It hides you from the world. You feel nothing is what it seems to be."

Edmund, the son whose birth was the beginning of Mary"s troubles, is played by James Bleecker. He has consumption, and there"s an argument about whether he should go to a more or less expensive sanatorium. When he tells his mother he"s going to one, she screams "No!" and slaps him hard. She insists he has nothing but a summer cold.

Jason Platt plays Jamie Tyrone, the older son. He"s a self-loathing drunk who tells his brother, "I"ve been a bad influence on you. I always wanted you to fail."

Cathleen, the maid, is portrayed by Maggie Wooley. She announces lunch in a shrieking voice and keeps Mary Tyrone company when she is terrified to be alone.

The men drink endlessly, watering the booze to make the flasks look full, and they stumble about drunkenly. Occasionally they exchange blows.

Michael Chasen directed the play, assisted by Don Hazen. Greg Hiatt designed the costumes, which reveal the period in Mary"s gown, primarily. The set, designed by Chris Walljasper, is a living room/dining room with steep stairs rising upward to bedrooms.

The play is eerie and emotional. It will be performed again at 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday and 2:30 p.m. Sunday at the Hilltop, 1601 Harrison St., Davenport. Tickets are $16 for night performances ($14 if you reserve ahead of time) and $14 for the matinee. Call (309) 235-1654 for reservations.