Eugene O'Neill's late period epic is a tale of monstrously corrupted intimacy.
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.
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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