The feel-good comedy AH, WILDERNESS!, written by the master of American realism Eugene O’Neill, is now performing at A Noise Within (ANW) in Pasadena, directed by Steven Robman.
AH, WILDERNESS! tells the story of the educated middle-class Miller family in New London, CT, on a 4th of July, and in particular of the coming of age of their teenage son, Richard, amidst the innocence that still existed in the early twentieth-century America.
This play is lighter and more optimistic than other O’Neill work you may have seen. Its subtitle explains it well as it describes “A Nostalgic Comedy of the Ancient Days when Youth was Young, and Right was Right, and Life was a Wicked Opportunity.” O’Neill had a difficult life and yet, as director Robman says, “he wrote this play about the family he always wished he had.” So in it we see children who think they know better than their parents, and parents who lovingly strive to guide and discipline them.
At ANW, a cast of 15 actors tells the story. It includes seasoned actor Nicholas Hormann (who has performed on Broadway, off-Broadway, and on film and television) in his debut with ANW as Nat Miller, the head of the Miller household. He makes a delightful pair with ANW resident artist Deborah Strang, as she plays Nat’s wife, Essie. Another ANW resident artist, Alan Blumenfeld, is most enjoyable as Sid Davis, the alcoholic uncle that O’Neill uses to infuse much humor into the play.
At ANW, the play opens as the family is gathered around the piano singing a song. This is a prelude to all the music that director Robman has added to the story – tunes from the period sung by the cast at various moments, including during set changes. Ian Littleworth (Arthur) and Kitty Swink (Lily Miller) were audience favorites on opening night and received warm applause for their singing performances.
AH, WILDERNESS!, said O’Neill, “was a sort of wishing out loud,” of what his teenage years could have been. In reality he grew up with an unfulfilled actor father, a morphine addicted mother, and a brother who would eventually drink himself to death. Still, O’Neill could picture life in a wholesome environment, one with manners and a rule of conduct that are, in truth, also a bit foreign in 2017. Yet, spending a couple of hours in his warm and imagined world is as enjoyable to us as it may have been to O’Neill himself. It’s a bit of Americana that you should treat yourself to.
AH, WILDERNESS! performs in repertory with KING LEAR through May 20, 2017. Tickets are available at ANoiseWithin.org or by calling (626) 356-3100 ex 1.
A Noise Within Theatre is located at 3352 E. Foothill Blvd. in Pasadena 91107.
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