I wrote last month about the phenomenal production of Arthur Miller's "The Crucible" at the Old Vic, directed by Yael Farber, which I saw online thanks to Digital Theatre. Here is another remarkable production available on the website: "Long Day's Journey into Night" by Eugene O'Neill filmed at the Apollo Theater in the West End in May 2012, with David Suchet as James Tyrone and Laurie Metcalf as Mary Tyrone. Trevor White and Kyle Soller complete the cast. (The production won the Oliver Award for Best Revival in 2013.) The staging, faithful to the period, includes a realistic set and costumes without a great focus on contrasts or lighting, which makes this production's spirit very different from the light-and-shadows theme in "The Crucible"; yet, I found myself enjoying "Long Day's Journey..." as much as I loved at "Crucible".
What really carries "Long Day's Journey..." is the emotional life of the characters that is so expertly brought to the audience's eyes to see by the four actors playing the members of the Tyrone family (parents and two sons). I've seen the movie adaptation with Katharine Hepburn and didn't care for it. In every scene of the movie I felt I was watching Hepburn playing Mary Tyrone rather than Mary Tyrone herself - Hepburn was, I felt, very heavy-handed in her depiction of Mary's addiction. In contrast, Metcalf was a much subtler actress who convincingly portrayed Mary's mood swings depending on whether she has had time to "visit the spare room upstairs" or not. Because of a certain relative's severe alcohol addiction in my family, the play has always hit close to home for me, but Metcalf's characterization (the denials, the excuses to absent oneself in order to get more, the refusal to face reality, the blaming, etc) was truly spot-on.
I am partial to "modern" stagings with very simple sets so visually the production with all the period details on stage was not quite to my taste but in the end that did not matter. What did matter was the superb acting that enables a group of actors on a London stage to tell us a story of addiction and family pain as relevant today as it was when it was premiered in 1956.
Below is the trailer.
And if you're inclined to watch more productions available on Digital Theatre, after "The Crucible" and "Long Day's Journey into Night", I'd recommend "A Doll's House", which I saw at BAM and is just perfect.