Swedish director Ingmar Bergman got rave reviews this past week for his new production of "Long Day's Journey Into Night" on the Stockholm stage where Eugene O'Neill's masterpiece had its world premiere in 1956.
The American writer bequeathed the world rights of the play, his autobiographical reconciliation with a traumatic childhood, to Stockholm's Royal Dramatic Theatre in gratitude for the Nobel prize in literature which he received in 1936.It was first introduced on stage by the theater three years after O'Neill's death.
"This is world class theater," said the newspaper Svenska Dagbladet of the weekend opening, the theater's first production of the work since the world premiere.
The play, set in a New England country home in 1912, covers 24 hours of talk between four members of the Tyrone family.
"Bergman has created a version which is naked, ascetic, unadorned an ingenious striptease," said Aftonbladet critic Jurgen Schildt.
The Swedish director trimmed the play to three hours from its original 41/2 and opted for sparse stage decorations.
Bergman, who will be 70 in July, retired from filmmaking in 1984 with the Oscar-winning "Fanny and Alexander" but continues his stage work at the Royal Dramatic Theater.
"Working with O'Neill's play was a painful but exciting journey of discovery. He wrote it like a surgeon who enters with a scalpel and slices with deep revealing incisions," Bergman said.
The American playwright described "Long Day's Journey Into Night," finished in 1941, as a "play about old grief, written with tears and blood."
Bergman's version of "Long Day's Journey Into Night" features Jarl Kulle as the father, a commercially successful but artistically unfulfilled actor. Kulle, one of Sweden's most popular actors, played the younger son in the 1956 version.
The mother, a morphine addict haunted by religious brooding, is portrayed by Bergman habitue Bibi Andersson.
The elder son, a second-class actor and alcoholic, is played by Thommy Berggren. The younger son, O'Neill's alter ego, is portrayed by Peter Stormare, prominent among the younger generation of Swedish actors.