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Ah, Wilderness! Makes Us Weep For a Time Gone By

Ah, Wilderness! Makes Us Weep For a Time Gone By

When we think of works by Eugene O’Neill, we think of the heartbreaking tales of Long Days Journey Into Night, Anna Christie and The Iceman Cometh. Ah, Wilderness!, O’Neill’s coming-of-age play, presented by Blackfriars Repertory Theatre and The Storm Theatre at The Sheen Center is sadly so outdated, because very few people remember the world, when it was that innocent.

Peter Atkinson, Megan McDevitt

Peter Calvin Atkinson and Megan McDevitt. Photo by Michael Abrams

Ah, Wilderness! takes place on the Fourth of July 1906 and focuses on the Miller family, of New London, Connecticut. The main plot deals with the middle son, 16-year-old Richard Miller (Peter Calvin Atkinson) who is in the throws of first love and his coming of age. Enamored by poetry, literature and politics that seems controversial for the times, he sends letters of his affection to a young girl named Muriel (Megan McDevit). When her father (Jim Haines) reads them he makes Muriel write Richard a letter that sends him into a night of drinking and more. His close-knit family, tries to understand as his mother Essie (Lynn Laurence) first berates him, but lovingly accepts him for who he is. His father connects with his son (a wonderful Ken Trammell) and a boy moves forward into manhood.

 Ted McGuinness, Peter Atkinson, Renée Petrofes, Heather Olsen, Lynn Laurence Ken Trammell


Sean Cleary, Ted McGuinness, Peter Calvin Atkinson, Renée Petrofes, Lynn Laurence, Heather Olsen. Photo by Michael Abrams

Ah, Wilderness! is the family O’Neil wanted, dysfunctional but loving.

Peter Calvin Atkinson, Natalie Pavelek

Peter Calvin Atkinson, Natalie Pavelek Photo by Michael Abrams

Themes of how alcoholism affects his family are rampant as Sid (Ted McGuinness), Essie’s brother, has kept promising Lily (Renee Petrofes), Nat’s sister he will give up the sauce, but does not have the character in which to do it. Because of this she will not marry him. They both live with the Miller’s because Sid’s can not hold down a job. However getting drunk is preferred over sleeping with a prostitute and a much more forgivable sin when Richard tries to drown his sorrows and meets Belle (Natalie Pavelek).The most touching moment of Ah, Wilderness! is when we see the love Richard feels for the effervescent Muriel (Megan McDevitt). It is the one scene in the play that everyone can relate to because no matter how jaded this world has become, we recognize first love.

Richard’s older brother Arthur (Sean Cleary), sings well as he is accompanied by his younger sister Millie (an adorable) Heather Olsen) on piano.

Peter Dobbins direction is slow paced and he does not bring out the best in his cast which is inconsistent, with women faring better than the men. As the lead Mr. Atkinson has the looks, but not the acting chops, pitching his voice too high.

The costumes by Sarah Thea Craig were extremely well done, as was the Victorian set by Daniel Prosky.

This is a period piece where the time seems long gone and innocents a thing of the past. Ah, Wilderness! made me weep for that realization.

Ah, Wilderness! Blackfriars Repertory Theatre and The Storm Theatre at The Sheen Center, 18 Bleecker St., through Feb. 17th.

Off Broadway

Suzanna, co-owns and publishes the newspaper Times Square Chronicles or T2C. At one point a working actress, she has performed in numerous productions in film, TV, cabaret, opera and theatre. She has performed at The New Orleans Jazz festival, The United Nations and Carnegie Hall. She has a screenplay and a TV show in the works, which she developed with her mentor and friend the late Arthur Herzog. She is a proud member of the Drama Desk and the Outer Critics Circle and was a nominator. Email: suzanna@t2conline.com

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