A Noise Within (ANW), the acclaimed classical repertory theatre, presents the sixth production of their 25th Anniversary Season, Eugene O’Neill’s Ah, Wilderness!, directed by Steven Robman, performing through May 20, 2017 (press opening is March 11). Robman’s work for the theatre includes the premieres of Wendy Wasserstein’s Uncommon Women and Others and Isn’t It Romantic, D. L. Coburn’s The Gin Game, and Ron Hutchinson’s Moonlight and Magnolias.
A rare departure from the playwright’s darker oeuvre, this comedy is unabashedly nestled in the innocent days of turn-of-the-twentiethcentury America. Set on July 4, 1906, it is a gentle, loving, and optimistic study of a deeply bonded family as they navigate the youthful indiscretions of their wayward son.
“O’Neill said that he wrote this play about the family he always wished he had,” said Director Steven Robman. “So, he took his difficult real life and transformed it into the lighter Ah, Wilderness!. Though you can see the outlines and composites of the more troubled characters that appear in his other plays, Ah, Wilderness! is a side of O’Neill that many people don’t know about or aren’t used to. It’s his only full-length comedy. When audiences more familiar with Long Day’s Journey into Night or The Iceman Cometh watch this play, they’ll be surprised and pleased to see that Eugene O’Neill can write jokes and can give them a fun experience in the theatre.”
Ah, Wilderness!, subtitled “A Nostalgic Comedy of the Ancient Days when Youth was Young, and Right was Right, and Life was a Wicked Opportunity,” focuses on the educated middle-class Miller family of New London, Connecticut. The plot deals with the teenaged middle son, Richard, and his coming of age in sweet days of early twentieth-century America. Inspired by the play’s many musical references and moments, Robman adds period songs to the staging and sound design. “Our production opens with the whole family gathered around the piano singing a lilting ballad from the period. In the days before movies and television or even radio, families often entertained themselves by playing musical instruments and singing – and this togetherness underscores the warmth and congeniality of the Miller family and the play itself.”
Robman points out that “the play pokes gentle fun at all the kids who repeat to their parents what they’ve been reading as if it had never been heard before. It’s no mistake that the setting is the eve of July 4; it’s a play about independence. Richard spouts classical poetry and radical political ideology throughout much of the play, borrowing other people’s voices to challenge his elders and to rebel like many 17-year-olds do.”
“But at the end of the play, by virtue of making a lot of mistakes and growing up a bit, Richard is in a position to find his own voice; to, in effect, declare his ‘independence.’ He learns that you don’t have to alienate yourself from the people around you to be ‘independent,’ that you can still be your own person while immersed in the love of your family.”
A Noise Within is located at 3352 E. Foothill Blvd. in Pasadena, CA 91107
Tickets and information may be found at the Web site, www.anoisewithin.org or by calling (626) 356-3100 ext. 1. Single Tickets start at $25 Student Rush with ID, one hour before performance $20.00 Groups of 10 or more — adults from $25/ticket; students from $18/ticket.