By Benjamin Taylor
Starring distinguished City College alumna Lee Meriwether, the production of Eugene O’Neill’s “A Long Day’s Journey Into Night” played to a crowded Diego Rivera Theater at the opening night gala performance Nov. 13.
In the packed Diego Rivera foyer, guests, students and faculty came elegantly dressed and enjoyed appetizers and wine. Ticket sales from the gala went to benefit the Kennedy Center Student Scholarship and the event was supported by the horticulture and the hospitality departments.
The play is about O’Neill’s dysfunctional family and is a heart-wrenching account of one day in the life of the Tyrone family, who are dealing with a mother who is a recovering morphine addict and a son who may have to be sent to an infirmary due to consumption.
“My father took me to see [O’Neill’s play] ‘Morning Becomes Electric’ with Jane Alexander when I was 18 and I’ll never forget it,” said director Susan Jackson. “I’ve always wanted to do ‘Long Day’s Journey Into Night.’”
Meriwether plays the haunting role of Mary Tyrone, who goes from being a recovering addict to relapsing into a full-blown addiction and hysteria with harrowing realism.
“She’s worked very hard on her hands and on her face,” Jackson said. “We worked on a moment yesterday where we tried to combine some ideas and she showed me, and it was right on. She really has a command of her body and her voice.”
With a cast of just six actors, Jackson said the play presented a great opportunity for students to work with a professional actor.
“I’m really happy with the way things have turned out,” Jackson said before the performance. “The cast and the crew have found the rhythm of the piece, which is important. I think they’re ready for an audience.”
And the audience was ready for them, too. The cast was greeted with a standing ovation at the end of the play, and in a surprise gesture Meriwether was presented with a bouquet of flowers.
“I am loving it,” said Meriwether about performing in the play. “I’m enjoying working on it. It’s an extremely difficult play, but it’s all coming together. We’ve got wonderful people playing the roles. They’ve all been in theater in and around the city. It’s been quite a moving experience.”