Long Day’s Journey Into Night review – Brian Cox overshadowed by morphine fiend Patricia Clarkson | Scene

TThe authoritarian patriarch of Eugene O’Neill’s semi-autobiographical drama is an actor who feels his career has been hampered by pigeonholing. Could James Tyrone also speak for Brian Cox who, in playing him, transitions almost seamlessly from Succession’s paterfamilias to O’Neill’s flawed father gathering rowdy sons?

Even so, Cox is, as always, exciting to watch. Yet it’s Patricia Clarkson, as the “morphine demon” wife, just returned from a sanitarium and falling back into addiction, who steals the show. Clarkson exudes vulnerability as well as outright denial. For all the period elements of the play – it’s set in 1912 – his feels like a true, infuriating and compassionate portrait of a drug addict.

Tyrone is less textured, a disgruntled and critical father, alternating between anger, touches of ironic humor and expressions of love.

First staged posthumously in 1956, despite O’Neill’s instructions not to dramatize it until 25 years after his death, this film may represent the high point of classic American family dramas about dysfunction. We spend a day with the Tyrones, during which the source of Maria’s addiction is revealed as well as the family’s points of weakness and pain, from James’ clenched fists and drinking tendencies to the bickering between his sons, Edmund (Laurie Kynaston). , a failed poet with tuberculosis, and Jamie (Daryl McCormack), a failed, drunken actor.

Almost Beckettian in his bones… Cox, McCormack and Kynaston. Photography: Johan Persson

Under the direction of Jeremy Herrin, the production does not seek to appease the morose spirit of the drama: it is a long, talking piece, with little action, delicately well constructed, which slides between domestic exchange and accusation, anger, emotional conflagration.

Here he is returned to his elemental state as the family gathers at their summer home and oscillates between love and hatred. The anger is tempered by an anxious love that ironically seems to fuel everyone’s various addictions: parents wring their hands over Edmund’s illness, sons wring theirs over their mother’s devastating addiction.

In one fell swoop, Maria tells James that the family home never felt like a home and that Lizzie Clachan’s ensemble, simple and wooden, reflects that feeling. It has the appearance of early American Puritanism, similar to that of Shaker in its simple lines, severe color palette, and elegant lighting (by Jack Knowles). There appear to be doors within doors, which speaks to Maria’s sense of spying as well, although the installation, as empty as it is, doesn’t really give the impression of an overheated crowd.

“There’s a darkness in the air that you could cut with a knife,” James says. He is right. This drama is so austere that it seems almost Beckettian, despite its naturalism. Yet there is forgiveness and tenderness between the hard edges, particularly between Maria and James – Cox and Clarkson have lovely natural chemistry. And even as the characters descend into resentment and rage, they always return to love and unity, which sets them apart from the emotional desolations of a Tennessee Williams drama.

Louisa Harland, for her part, is so effective as the family maid, Cathleen, that you want more. She elevates every scene she’s in, turning a functional role into a comic book highlight.

Some scenes glow with dark energy and are truly tragic. Others feel drawn out, the dated exposition of the exhibit and the overused device of characters recounting memories resembling long confessions. The circularity of family arguments and accusations is also grating and does not always absorb us emotionally.

At half past three, you feel like you’re wasting away. Again, that’s the point here. It’s the ultimate family countdown, with a little light, but mostly shadow.

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