While neither parent nor sibling sleeplessly pacing the floor of the Tyrone clan's wood-lined house have actually caused any harm in a global sense, the damage they inflict on themselves and each other has consequences that fester before exploding into the sickly yellow light.
It starts innocuously enough in Anthony Page's slow-burning but oddly fast-moving production, with David Suchet's increasingly compromised patriarch James swapping mid-morning niceties with Laurie Metcalf as his fragrant wife Mary and their grown-up son – feckless first-born James Junior, played by Trevor White, and Kyle Soller as his fragile brother Edmund. By the time all stumble together for an after-hours post-mortem on their sorry lot, their sunny facade has been ripped open to lay bare assorted litanies of failure, disappointment, bitterness and addiction.
It would be easy to showboat with such potentially bombastic material but, even playing an old theatrical ham more used to touring hotel rooms than settling anywhere resembling home, Suchet is a master of controlled understatement. White and Soller too relay all the messed-up ambitions of such a dysfunctional dynasty. It's Metcalf who steals things, though. From the initial tilt of her white-haired head, accompanied by a totter, she says much more about Mary's state of mind than O'Neill's words alone can.
It's the final image of Metcalf too that lingers at the end of a final act where something that almost looks like reconciliation gives way to a doped-up vision of a woman who only wanted a home, but got a life sentence instead.
This review appeared in later editions of yesterday's Herald