SOMETIMES an evening at the theatre can touch the heights and such moments occur in Eugene O’Neill’s classic Long Day’s Journey Into Night.
Sometimes, too, blessings have to be counted and you would not want to be part of the dysfunctional and tragic Irish-American Tyrone family, with their various addictions and failures, as the production reaches Nottingham’s Theatre Royal this week before heading for the West End.
It is also a wordy play, with a title that is spot-on, for the first half lasts as long as a football match and the curtain does not fall until nearly half-past ten.
That said, there isn’t a moment that fails to grip in this most compelling of dramas. Set in 1912, there are extremes of love and hatred unveiling in the living room of the Tyrones’ New England summer home during an August day.
A mother with a morphine addiction, a miserly father, scarred by memories of childhood poverty and wallowing in drink after realising he is no longer a famous Shakespearean actor, and a misfit, alcoholic elder brother.
The play is autobiographical and you can find O’Neill in the youngest son, an aspiring writer under the cloud of the then-killer disease of consumption, who lays the truths bare.
But among all this dysfunction is a family story which is at times heartwarming with some very funny moments.
David Suchet as James, the father, is outstanding, giving a masterly, convincing performance, the timing superb, and this is matched by Laurie Metcalf as his wife Mary.
There is a moment when Suchet is putting on his shoes and the lace snaps, a mundane occurrence that seems just right in this context.
Kyle Soller, as the younger son, Edmund, almost looks consumptive with his frequent bouts of coughing as he awaits the doctor’s dreaded diagnosis and the subsequent admittance to a sanatorium.
The second-half scene in which father and son attempt to play solitaire while emptying a decanter of whisky, the father explaining how his chances of acting immortality vanished and the son describing his experiences at sea, is brilliantly portrayed.
Trevor White as the elder son and Rosie Sansom as the maid have equally compelling moments in a play which must rank among the best seen at the Threate Royal.