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ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT

Long Day’s Journey Into Night

Tucked away in their scrappy summerhouse, the Tyrone family faces itself. It is a slow, mournful composition that only works with pitch-perfect performances, which Robyn Nevin and William Hurt deliver.
By Bree Pickering
July 06, 2010
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Long Day’s Journey Into Night

Tucked away in their scrappy summerhouse, the Tyrone family faces itself. It is a slow, mournful composition that only works with pitch-perfect performances, which Robyn Nevin and William Hurt deliver.
By Bree Pickering
July 06, 2010
  shares
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Tucked away in their scrappy summerhouse, the Tyrone family faces itself. Mary Tyrone (Robyn Nevin), an aged beauty long condemned to addiction after the troubled birth of her youngest son Edmund, once again slips, glassy eyed, away from her family. Her husband, James (William Hurt), and sons, Jaime (Todd Van Voris) and Edmund (Luke Mullins), themselves suffering under the weight of life, are undone as she, the pedestaled mother, falls again. Regret spills out and over, mixing with contempt, self-loathing, love, nostalgia and lost hope.

The brilliance of Long Day’s Journey Into Night, Eugene O’Neill’s largely autobiographical play, lies in its finely drawn relationships and the language with which these are expressed. Both Van Voris and have noted that the play has a reputation as a dirge, and indeed it is a slow, mournful composition that only works with pitch-perfect performances. Nevin and Hurt deliver such. Nevin is beyond majestic as Mary and Hurt manages to highlight the kind and loving aspects of a miserly old man willing to send his chronically ill son to a state institution rather than fork out the extra money for good treatment. The two of them together are genius.

Unfortunately, Van Voris's and Mullins' performances are just under. While both have finely constructed the physicality of their characters, one a consumptive wraith the other a corpulent whoremonger, neither actor quite delivers the humanity required to draw compassion — compassion that is absolutely necessary to carry the audience through the final hour. Truly, by the end of the third act, you will be scratching at the inside of your skin, desperate that the thing should end. You will feel as if you're being punished. This is mostly O'Neill's fault. He is too theatrically indulgent in the scenes between the brothers, one of which, Edmund, is based on himself — justifying his own personal failings perhaps?

A co-production between the Sydney Theatre Company and Oregon's Artists Repertory Theatre, this production is in many ways a triumph. Just don't go thinking it's going to be an easy night in the theatre.

If you're under 30, tickets are only $40.

Photo by Brett Boardman.

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