BY Arthur Gelb
FROM The New York Times, May 16, 1962
Swedish Actors Give Play Its Full
It is a strange exhilarating and almost mystical
experience for a non-Swedish-speaking American to see Eugene O'Neill's
epic play, "Long Day's Journey Into Night," performed in Swedish.
Five superb actors of Stockholm's Royal Dramatic
Theatre gave the tragedy full value at the Cort Theatre last night.
They took all the time they needed -- four and a half hours to be
precise -- to explore every emotional nuance and she every last drop of
blood contained in the members of the haunted Tyrone family.
To anyone familiar with the illuminating American
production, which earned its author, posthumously, his fourth Pulitzer
Prize, the language barrier presented by the Swedish production is no
The devastating interaction of character --
husband embattled with wife, mother and father in bitter conflict with
their two sons, brother challenging brother -- is conveyed by a power
that transcends the spoken word.
Of all great contemporary dramatists, O'Neill by
his very weaknesses, is perhaps assured the leading place in universal
theatre literature. His often-exploited lack of poetic language, a
deficiency he himself acknowledged through his autobiographical hero of
"Long Day's Journey Into Night," clears the way for facile translation
into any foreign tongue.
O'Neill's power lies in the tragic, soul-wringing
vision of life that was his legacy from his family. However
colloquial the words in which he expressed this vision, the impact of
artistic and poetic truth is never denied.
The Swedes are particularly adept and persuasive
interpreters of O'Neill because they have been nourished on Strindberg,
who, of course, was O'Neill's chief theatrical influence.
To the Royal Dramatic Theatre ensemble, the
violent writhings of O'Neill's self-doomed characters are more native
than they are to O'Neill's own countrymen.
Inga Tidblad, in particular, brings to the role of
Mary Tyrone a species of virtuoso acting seldom seen on the American
stage. From her initial appearance, all delicacy and piteous
gaiety, through her quicksilver eruptions into drug-craving agony and
her gradual withdrawal into a dream world, she is in supreme command of
Georg Rydeberg, as her husband, by turns
bombastic, tender, violent and harsh, is splendid, too. So are
Jarl Kulle as the younger brother, Edmund, who stands for O'Neill; Ulf
Palme, as the older brother, Jamie, and Catrin Westerlund, as the
unconventional maidservant. But it is to Miss Tidblad that the
highest honors of the evening are due.
The measured, deliberately repetitive cadences of
this native American dance of death, set in 1912 in a small Connecticut
town, never give Miss Tidblad or other members of the cast pause.
The fluidity of their acting, under Bengt Ekerot's direction, makes you
forget that "Long Day's Journey Into Night," in Swedish, is a good 20
per cent longer than it was as O'Neill wrote it.
The Swedes have few monosyllabic words in their
vocabulary and they often require two words to convey the exact meaning
of a single English one. (Thornton Wilder's "Our Town," which is
also a part of the Royal Dramatic Theatre repertory at home, is rendered
by the Swedes as "Our Little Town."
But conventional standards of length cannot be
applied to O'Neill. The Royal Dramatic Theatre recognizes this
better than Broadway. It has given us a glimpse of what great
theatre can be.