The Corner

Culture

Ah, Wilderness! Surrounds You With Love on Bleecker Street

Ah, Wilderness!

It’s very cold, I have a cold, and so much of our politics has doubled down on the coldness of death as a solution to difficult situations we should be rising to the challenge of with radical generosity. For these and other reasons, the opening weekend of Ah, Wilderness! — a Eugene O’Neill comedy presented by the Blackfriars Repertory Theatre and Storm Theatre Company — last Friday and Saturday at The Sheen Center in lower Manhattan  couldn’t have been more welcome.

I told Peter Dobbins, the director, as I walked out: I needed that.

I laughed and I cried – all the things you hope to do when setting out to a theater. It’s about love and family and dreams, both fulfilled and filled with heartache, as it is with life. It’s an antidote for the vortex of the newscycle, polar or political. It’s healthy and delightful.

Terry Teachout saw the production, too, last weekend, and in his review of it in the Wall Street Journal, captures some of its gift:

The best thing about “Ah, Wilderness!” is the way in which it mixes sweetness with sorrow. It stands to reason that O’Neill, who subtitled the play “A Comedy of Recollection in Three Acts,” would have been inclined to mix these two strong flavors. “Ah, Wilderness!” is the theatrical equivalent of a reverse image of “Long Day’s Journey Into Night,” the tragedy in which he dwelled at length on the horrific shortcomings of his real-life family. In “Ah, Wilderness!” he chose instead to evoke the imagined shades of the Millers, the family he would have preferred, headed by Nat (Mr. Trammell), the tolerant, supportive father, and Essie (Lynn Laurence), the kindly mother. In addition, he portrayed himself when young as Richard (Peter Calvin Atkinson), a lovesick innocent who reads George Bernard Shaw and Oscar Wilde on the sly but remains a virgin. Indeed, poor Richard is so idealistic that he actually contrives in the second act to visit a whorehouse without effect, coming home drunk but unspotted.

That’s the sweet part. The sorrow comes in the form of Sid (Ted McGuinness), Essie’s brother, who has kept Lily (Ms. Petrofes, who is touchingly melancholy), Nat’s sister and Sid’s longtime girlfriend, on the string for 16 years. It’s not that Sid isn’t willing to tie the knot, but Lily knows better: He’s a ne’er-do-well alcoholic who can’t hold down a job, and she won’t marry him unless he goes on the wagon. Their relationship casts a shadow on the other Millers, reminding us of the dark-brown threads of disappointment that run through even the happiest of small-town families.

….

“Ah, Wilderness!” profits from unhurried presentation, especially in a light-textured production like this one. It helps that Mr. Trammell is so good: His Nat is the father we all wish we’d had, decent and patient, and he makes us believe that such men exist, or at least did in 1906, the year when “Ah, Wilderness!” takes place.

O’Neill’s only mature full-length comedy is overdue for a handsome Broadway revival. In its absence, though, this production makes a convincing case for its old-fashioned virtues. Even if—perhaps especially if—your own family was more like the desperately unhappy Tyrones of “Long Day’s Journey” than the mostly contented Millers, I suspect you’ll be charmed by “Ah, Wilderness!” Like “Our Town,” it takes an essentially hopeful view of American family life, and successfully persuades all but the most cynical viewers that it’s more than merely pretty to think so.

Read the whole review here.

Ticket information is here.

There is a pure goodness about so much of this production of the kind that we need to immerse ourselves in more. It’s refreshing and renewing. And on the part of the audience it doesn’t take a lot of work. It doesn’t add stress. It doesn’t make you angry. I’ll sure take that over things we typically subject ourselves to throughout our days.

We need art. Great art – like Elizabeth Lev talked about here. Comedic art like this. We need to support and encourage art. Drink it in where you can. Do yourself a favor and see this run of Ah, Wilderness!, if you can.

 

 

Most Popular

Elections

One Last Grift for Bernie Sanders

Bernie Sanders, the antique Brooklyn socialist who represents Vermont in the Senate, is not quite ready to retire to his lakeside dacha and so once again is running for the presidential nomination of a party to which he does not belong with an agenda about which he cannot be quite entirely ... Read More
PC Culture

Hate-Crime Hoaxes Reflect America’s Sickness

On January 29, tabloid news site TMZ broke the shocking story that Jussie Smollett, a gay black entertainer and progressive activist, had been viciously attacked in Chicago. Two racist white men had fractured his rib, poured bleach on him, and tied a noose around his neck. As they were leaving, they shouted ... Read More
Politics & Policy

The Strange Paradoxes of Our Age

Modern prophets often say one thing and do another. Worse, they often advocate in the abstract as a way of justifying their doing the opposite in the concrete. The result is that contemporary culture abounds with the inexplicable — mostly because modern progressivism makes all sorts of race, class, and ... Read More
Film & TV

A Sublime Christian Masterpiece of a Film

‘There are two ways through life -- the way of nature and the way of grace,” remarks the saintly mother at the outset of The Tree of Life, one of the most awe-inspiring films of the 21st century. She continues: Grace doesn’t try please itself. It accepts being slighted, forgotten, disliked, accepts insults ... Read More
U.S.

White Progressives Are Polarizing America

To understand how far left (and how quickly) the Democratic party has moved, let’s cycle back a very short 20 years. If 1998 Bill Clinton ran in the Democratic primary today, he’d be instantaneously labeled a far-right bigot. His support for the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the Defense of Marriage Act, ... Read More