This Week in History: Originally Published in 1987 – Fall Play Ready for Action

Some of the fine arts supported by GCHS are each year’s school play productions. For several weeks, students have been busy getting ready for this fall’s play, ‘ah, Wilderness!’ by Eugene O’Neill. Almost every day, the cast rehearses under the direction of Pat Witten, speech-theatre director director at GCHS. The play will open November 19th, and after that there will be two more performances at the 20th and the 21st of November.

Witten: I chose this play because I like the nostalgic family relations it reflects during the turning of the century.

The play is set in Connecticut and shows two days in the life of a common American family in 1906.

Nat Miller (Danny Botz), is the owner of a newspaper and he is married to Essie Miller (Mary Gibson). She is a rather conservative woman and she doesn’t like her son Richard (Shawn Bunning) reading all that ‘wicked’ poetry.

Richard Miller is 16 and very intellectual. He is a rebel of his time. He is also very sensitive, and when his girlfriend Muriel McComber (Kim Alberts) sends him a letter to break up with him he falls into a deep crisis.

This is the main intrigue of the play. Besides this, there is another sub-intrigue which deals with the relations between Sid Davis (Nick Ortiz), who is Essie’s brother, and Lily Miller (Kelly Allen), who is Nat’s sister. Both characters are in their forties and still unlucky in love. They both know they like each other, but their different characters keep them from coming together.

Sid Davis is a small, rather funny personality. Now and then he likes to spend some time with his friends, which usually results in him getting drunk. Lily therefore, is a very quiet, almost shy woman. The bad habits of Sid make her feeling sad

But like in every comedy, everything is turning all right in the end.

Pat Witten: This is our first comedy since years ago. I wanted to do something else.

Garret H. Clark about O’Neill’s play in “O’Neill, the man and his plays.”

“The play, opened in October 1933, became a popular success and ran through the season. It was written in Georgia in 1932. Characterized by its author ‘a dream walking’, and ‘a comedy of recollection’ it is a nostalgic family comedy, laid in a small Connecticut city in 1906. There are no philosophical implications in this simple serious comedy, and there is scarcely a hint of ironic intention; it comes rather as a quiet interlude in the work of a playwright who had not so far in his writing career been content to use the theatre merely as a means of showing characters detached, as it were, from the ulterior complications of human existence. He was not again, ip to the present moment, to make another attempt of the same kind. “My purpose”, he writes in a short not in The Wilderness Edition, “was to write a play as true to the spirit of the American large small-town at the turn of the century. Its quality depends upon the atmosphere, sentiment, an exact evocation of the mood of a dead past. To me, the America which was (and is) the real America found its unique expression in many of my own generation passed from adolescence into manhood.”

The comedy is not primarily a study in anything; the plot is only a part of what the playwright was interested in. It is a fairly broad canvas, upon which a pretty detailed domestic scene is painted. O’Neill has accurately and affectionately summoned from the depths of his memory the mothers and fathers, the aunts, brothers, friends and neighbors and servants whose everyday concerns and small talk, whose little comedies and tragedies, made ip the sim total of the kind of middle-class family to which he and his contemporaries belonged seventy years ago. The fact that O’Neill thought it was worth his while to write “Ah, Wilderness!” at all, without straining to give it a particular direction and inner meaning is, I think, of some importance in any consideration of his entire output.”

 

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