May 06, 2004

Ah, Wilderness!

The mainstage show this term was Eugene O'Neill's Ah, Wilderness!. It was a good performance, but definitely the weakest of the four this year.

It's a very day-in-the-life sort of show that covers the growing-up experience of one rebellious romantic. The writing is excellent; unfortunately, there were a lot of scenes where it was the writing carrying the scene. Nearly every scene had at least one character that kept breaking my suspension of disbelief, making it difficult to really get into the show. While the women of the show gave uniformly good performances, the guys were generally spotty at best. The lead actor---playing the teenage romantic---kept reciting his lines, rather than acting, and seemed always to be trying very hard not to break into a smirky grin. Most of the others did at least have their moments. The father explaining the birds and the bees to his son (or not) was executed brilliantly. The alcoholic nodding off and commencing to snore gently was a real scene stealer.

But for the most part the guys looked like a bunch of college kids with powder in their hair. The only ones that didn't look like college kids were the little kid (who was perhaps ten, and is the son of a faculty member) and one of the characters who was supposed to be in college. (The other collegiate type was a short cameo by Doug Porter as a slick playa. He certainly seems to be versatile.)

The women were a lot more convincing. Sylvie Davidson's one scene was a delight to watch; her timing was perfect. "Well, fine, then. *pause* But what happened next?" Jacqueline Dehne as the spinster aunt had just the right faint aura of sadness about her. (She also appeared to be knitting on stage, although I couldn't tell if she was actually doing it---I think she might have been just transferring loops back and forth. She certainly didn't have the casual familiarity with the needles that she might have. ;) Having convincingly affected an English accent in Arcadia, Emily Richardson put on an Irish brogue as the maid in this show, and pulled off a fairly memorable part despite only having perhaps a dozen lines.

The technical aspects were, as usual, excellent. (Well, except for the part where they forgot to raise the chandelier and almost hit it with a set piece.) The set was particularly neat: although you can see that it is a raised platform over the regular stage, it is not apparent that it's actually several tightly-interlocking but irregularly-shaped wagons, until they start doing a set change. The lighting was the sort that you didn't really even notice until you thought about it, the sign of a job well done. The makeup was overdone, again, but not too badly.

Generally, I'm pleased to have seen the show. I just wish that it didn't bookend the theatre year (and I'm especially sad as it's the last show directed by one of our retiring professors---you just wish they could've had a spectacular show, considering). Ah, well.

"One almost gets the sense that [the Gospels] are steps in a developing oral tradition, rather than anything remotely resembling a report of fact." --Jonathan Prykop

Posted by blahedo at 11:25pm on 6 May 2004
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