"Since the play was meant only to be read, its stage directions were written in a very narrative way, almost like a novel. That means the footprints exist for working out the movements - for looking, touching, interacting. And we don't have to abandon those directions as we would in a larger theatre, where we'd all be pushing in one direction."
"I find we are constantly referring back to O'Neill's written stage directions," adds Ms McKenna. "They force you to examine closely and discover the 'why' behind everything you do - again, very much like in Tennessee Williams, you ignore these directions at your peril. You may reject something at first, but then you find yourself revisiting and reconsidering. Everything in that text is there for a reason.
"And producing the show in such a small space will give the audience a sense that they are eavesdropping or watching someone's private diary being played out before their eyes."
"At the heart of things is the looming spectre of addiction - a difficult subject matter both then and now."
"Zoe Dodd, a Toronto activist and harm-reduction worker, came to speak with us about her work with the safe needle exchange site program, and it was very enlightening," says Ms McKenna. "She talked about the pleasure people find in using drugs - which is something we don't often think of - and this is why people turn to them: to fill an emptiness, remedy their pain and cope with lives that seem overwhelming to them."
"One thing that is clear is that the harsh judgment and the strong sense of shame have not changed. There is a sense that one has failed, and that getting over the addiction is a mere matter of willpower."
"As a society, I think we may have come to view alcoholism in a slightly more enlightened way over the years, in that we now understand the dangers of it more clearly," adds Mr. Wentworth.
"Here in the play, you have three male problem drinkers constantly judging Mary for her morphine use," says Ms McKenna. "As with today's prescription opiate crisis, back then many middle-class women - mothers - struggled with addiction and suffered its stigma."
"Even Mary's own son, James Jr., says he 'always thought only whores took dope,' " adds Mr. Wentworth. "Unlike the men's drinking, Mary's addiction was imposed on her by her doctor, and yet she is the one being blamed."
Despite the relentless misery and hopelessness that afflicts its characters, the play is full of a life force that is uplifting to witness.
"Everyone in the audience will find something deeply recognizable in the characters' isolation and denial and lack of self-awareness," says Ms McKenna." And there is a wicked humour that runs through the whole thing - a black Irish humour."
"These are people fighting for their lives," says Mr. Wentworth," and ultimately it is a love story between Mary and James. The thing to keep in mind while you are watching is that, no matter what terrible things are said and how badly they hurt one another, they are all going to have to get up the next day and come down to face one another across the breakfast table. The Tyrones are a family of survivors. Life will go on."
"Here at the Festival, there seems to be a group of plays that culturally we want to return to every so often and have a big conversation about them. This piece is so timeless and has a lot to tell us about people and families. There have been a lot of revivals of it over the past few years - collectively, we seem to need to examine again what it has to say. We really have not changed that much as human beings. There is something so vigorous and vital and modern at work in this piece."
"I agree wholeheartedly," says Ms McKenna. "There is much more of love than there is of hate between the family members -and especially between Mary and James.But it is a modern tragedy. Our director, Miles Potter, said the other day in rehearsal, 'It's like the end of Hamlet, but everyone is still alive."
Long Day's Journey Into Night runs at the Studio Theatre from May 5 to October 13.