Long Day's Journey Into Night at Citizens Theatre impresses (3 stars)

Long Day's Journey Into Night

credit: Tim Morozzo

Citz adaptation of Eugene O'Neill drama hits most of its targets

Pernicious words poison as much as addiction can. In Tom Piper's gorgeously designed interior, all wrapped up in gauze like a gift, is a pretty prison, where the Tyrone family live, fight, and lie to each other, barely holding it together. Permanently sozzled patriarch James (George Costigan) attempts to rule his family with lapsed Catholic zeal, only for his two young sons – bookish, adored Edmund (Lorn MacDonald) and dissolute Jamie (Sam Phillips) a ne'er do well with a predilection for whoring and drinking – to rebel against his braying doctrine.

Meanwhile, James' increasingly fragile, bewildered wife Mary, played a little too overwrought and mannered by Brid Ni Neachtain, clings to the froth of her wedding dress and girlhood dreams of being a nun, as she wanders the creaking house at night in an opium haze.

After a first half which feels a little lethargic, it takes the second for the production to really come into its own, as even uncouth servant Cathleen (Dani Heron) gets in on the trick of watering down the whisky from James Senior's supply. Dominic Hill's direction is fine, letting O'Neill's wise, tender words on religion, morality and thwarted ambition really sting like slaps.

Only the void, it seems, awaits the tragic Tyrones, lost in a permanent literal and symbolic fog. This is particularly true of the drunken scene between capricious bullying Jamie and poor, consumptive Edmund. It really impresses –- as affecting as it is disarming in its spat out, unvarnished truth – only those closest can hurt us the most. MacDonald, superb from the start, is far and away the living embodiment of the underdog dealt a cruel hand: wide-eyed and vulnerable, yet headstrong and sympathetic, as he hurtles towards a grave not of his own making.

Long Day's Journey Into Night

Eugene O’Neill’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play delves into the private lives and failings of a conflicted family, while revealing insights into his own upbringing.