|Katherine Leiden as Josie Hogan, Jason Cassidy as Jim Tyrone|
No Refund Theatre did it again. I am floored.
This time, instead of raptures as after Othello, I left quiet and provoked. Strange that after only 2.5 hours I felt so familiar with a cast of three primary characters. As if I had watched their entire lives before coming to this stretch of a few hours in their lives. Eugene O'Neil's writing has a great deal to do with this. That man knew how to write dialogue that carries the narrative alone. There is not "epic-ness" to this play. No on stage deaths. No sword fights. Every scene takes place on the front porch of the Hogan's farmhouse. I realized during one of the longest acts that Josie and Jim had been sitting for almost 45 minutes. Clearly, this is a character driven play.
What amazed me then was how well the NRT cast pulled it off. Perhaps that is the wrong phrase. "Pulling it off" makes it sound like they did a lot of tricks to make it work. But they don't. There aren't any tricks in this. Just acting. It would be easy for this play to fall flat on stage without quality performances from all of the characters. There is nothing that any of them do. They talk. And making this talk full of the spoken and unspoken, the rising and falling, the sudden shifts in mood, in intention, expressing the deep confusion each of the characters processes about what they want. Wants are very hard to express in the body. They don't come in grand actions or stage directions. They come in performance (even if O'Neil tried so very hard to control every performance with his obsessively detailed stage directions). And this cast does it.
I might be a little biased, but Katherine Leiden did this especially for me. There were several moments where she revealed, without words, a truth about her character that she would not verbalize for another two acts. I remember being astonished at how convinced I was that an assumption about Josie was wrong relatively early in the play. When Josie then confirmed this belief in words towards the end of the play, I could only be impressed that Katherine had so thorough a knowledge of Josie that one facial expression could draw on a fact that we only learn later. A whole character was at play from the first time she stepped on the stage.
Well done, NRT and Eugene O'Neil!
PS. Warning: It is long. And it is character driven. You should go even if these two things daunt you. But don't say I didn't warn you.
PPS. Also, shout out to Katherine for holding Jason for a very. long. time. And Jason for being so still for such a very. long. time.