Long Day’s Journey Into Night ★★★★ Wyndham’s Theatre | Mar 19 - Jun 8, 2024

Eugene O'Neill's monumental masterpiece of modern theatre is an Everest that offers a challenge to even the most seasoned of actors. Running at slightly over three hours, this is an evening that is a huge emotional challenge for both the audience and the cast. O'Neill's quasi-autobiographical look at the Tyrone family is a distressingly searing piece that engages dark existential questions. When the parsimonious patriarch of the family, James Tyrone, quotes Shakespeare's "We are such stuff as dreams are made on," his sickly son Edmund replies "We are such stuff as manure is made on" and ruefully concludes "So let's drink up and forget it." O'Neill's view of the human condition is bleak and his tormented characters are full of regrets and recriminations. They are tortured by their doubts, their pasts and their own mixed motives. In this current production there are some extraordinary moments. Brian Cox's interaction with Patricia Clarkson, who plays his wife Mary, depicts a wonderfully complex expression of love and loathing. Their dialogues which simultaneously reach out for, and retreat from, the reality of their relationship are beautifully executed. Equally impressive is Cox's dynamic with his son, Edmund, played by Laurie Kynaston. The exchanges over their attempts to play a card game are riveting. The difficulty of playing drunk is almost a theatrical cliché, but Cox succeeds brilliantly here. Kynaston's declamation of Baudelaire and his recounting of his moments of blissful escape from the pain of his humanity are also high points. There is not a lot of action in O'Neill's drama. It is a gloomy symphony of words with recurring themes and motifs eddying around a day in the life of a family who become emblematic of the human condition in general. Bringing this work to the stage requires some first-rate performances and intelligent direction. This production has both!

Rated: ★★★★

Reviewed by J.C.
Photo by Johan Persson

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