Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Eugene O'Neill: A Documentary Film

Great art demands absolute commitment, and Ric Burns' documentary on Eugene O'Neill's tortured life does it justice. The film, 10 years in the making, showcases the words of the Irish-American playwright who invented American theatre, with readings by selected artists who have acted in O'Neill's works: Jason Robards, Liam Neeson, Natasha Richardson, Zoe Caldwell, Robert Sean Leonard, Al Pacino, and narration by Christopher Plummer. Interesting features include commentary by Tony Kushner, and O'Neill biographers Arthur and Barbara Gelb.

Redgrave and Dennehy, left, in "Long Day's Journey into Night." Photo by Joan Marcus

Of interest also is the PBS American Experience website, which adds to the drama. Check out the Actors' Video series: of particular note is Christopher Plummer's 3 1/2 minutes on James O'Neill titled "Fear of the Poorhouse" and Jason Robards' 10 minutes on performing and viewing O'Neill. The former goes a long way in explaining the tortured Irish diasporic experience through the eyes of James O'Neill, the playwright's immigrant father, in the autobiographical tour de force "Long Day's Journey Into Night." We reviewed a 2003 Broadway Tony-winning production, available at http://www.thewildgeese.com/pages/ldjour.html.

And for those of you who missed Monday's broadcast, in metro New York the show is to be broadcast on Channel 13 at least twice more: March 28 and April 2. Don't miss this biography; It's for theatre lovers as well as for those who are interested in the Irish experience in 20th century theatre. -- Patricia Jameson-Sammartano, WGT Culture Editor

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