Long’s Day Journey Into Night: Theatre Review

Often described as Eugene O’Neill’s best play, Long Day’s Journey Into Night is an emotionally charged drama set in Connecticut, America. A semi-autobiographical account of O’Neill’s family with each member suffering from an addiction of either drugs or alcohol.

The entire play is set in the Tyrone’s living room and follows the lives of the Tyrone family through the course of one day. Although it is based in 1912,  if you looked beyond the dated set, the play could very well be depicting the struggles of the modern-day family. Watching the Tyrone family’s struggle I understood the meaning of being stuck in a vicious cycle. The problems are passed down through the echo of tears from past generations.

The set is striking as you walk into the Apollo Theatre and I was surprised that the curtain was already up as I entered. As I sat before the stage and tried to take in the stunning setting, I could hear the whispers of what the play could contain. David Suchet was faultless in his performance, not missing a single beat. I could even hear an intake of breath from the audience as he entered the stage. I could not take my eyes off him, wanting to take in everything. Suchet plays the patriarch of the family, James Tyrone, an embittered actor and once upon a time, property baron. He worked his way from poverty to the top of his game and as a result is known more for being parsimonious than for his past acting glory.

His wife is played by Laurie Metcalf (more famous for her role as the sister of Roseanne in the American television series). Her performance is heartbreaking as much as its electrifying. From the outset, watching both Suchet and Metcalf in their role as husband and wife, brings home the idea that you never really understand what occurs in a family behind closed doors. Although you are aware of Tyrone’s wife’s instability at the offset, the extent of it is only revealed in the last scene.  Having played together in All My Sons also at the Apollo Theatre, the chemistry between Laurie and David is palpable which makes their performances all the more believable.

Kyle Stoller and Trevor White give outstanding performances as Tyrone’s sons, in particular Stoller who had to fight coughs from his ‘1912 summer cold’. I wondered how his throat fared after each performance. Pressured by their father to follow in his acting footsteps, they have become disillusioned with life and the tension between father and sons soon comes to the fore drawing the audience into the penultimate final scene.

If you walk away from this show with one thing, I hope it is this. To understand the state of your life today, get to know your parents, talk to them; learn where they come from. There was no such thing as black and white in 1912, and there is no such thing now.  O’Neill’s impressive writing brings reality to life. Despite the harrowing undertones of the play, it is also funny, drawing on the easy connection between members of the cast.

To sum, I would like to borrow words from the ever charismatic David Suchet: ‘ it is a terrific piece of theatre’. Watching this play has made me wonder why I do not visit the theatre more often. The atmosphere was electrifying. Something you can not experience from the big screen. Whoever said that theatre is dead could not have seen David Suchet perform.