Sunday December 17th 2017

“Ah, Wilderness!”

There are many “coming of age” plays, and one of my favorites is now on the stage at The Goodman Theatre ( in the Albert). It is Eugene O’Neill’s “Ah, Wilderness”. Here is a story that was written almost a hundred years ago, and while the language and lifestyle is not quite the same in today’s world, the basic idea is very real, even in today’s “hi-tech” world. “Ah, Wilderness!” is about the Miller family. the father, Nat (played to perfection by Randall Newsome), the mother, Essie (divinely played by Ora Jones) and their family. They have four children, The eldest, Arthur (Travis A. Knight) the Yalie, the youngest, Tommy (Matthew Abraham), the daughter , Mildred (adorable played by Rochelle Therrien) and last but not least, Richard a/k/a/ Dickie (an extraordinary debut by Niall Cunningham) for whom “coming of Age” and finding out who and what he is, is the main story (of several).

The opening portion of the play on a wonderful set (Todd Rosenthal) indicating a fantastic home on the water and beach begins with the July 4th Holiday week-end. Everyone is excited about time off from work and having “family time”. Nat’s sister Lily , a school teacher (the always delightful Kate Fry) is also there and her ex-fiancée, but still close friend , Sid (deftly handled by Larry Bates), a hard-drinker is also on hand. There is a strong emotional tie between these two, but O’Neill only allows their relationship to get “so far”. After all, this was the early 20th century! The other characters in this story are the housekeeper, Norah (a comic touch by Bri Suda), David McComber (Chicago favorite Ricardo Gutierrez) father of Dickie’s girlfriend who forbids the two of them to see each other, Muriel herself (the delightful Ayssette Munoz)  an Wint Selby ( Will Allan) who convinces Dickie to go with him that night, to a seedy bar and meet two “women of the night”.

The bar-room scene is very funny and while it shows what can happen to a teen-ager under extreme circumstancse, it also is a way for O’Neill to show that good can triumph over evil, no matter how beautiful and sexy evil might be. The young lady that ends up drinking with Dickie is Belle (a sharp character developed to perfection by Amanda Drinkall). While they kiss and play and she invites him to purchase a room for the night, his love for  Muriel is stronger than the forbidden fruit that he is being offered. The bar-keep is played with the greatest of flair by Joe Dempsey and another characters in the bar, a man of money and importance by Bret Tuomi.

O’Neill creates characters that are real, not only of the period in which he wrote them but, even in today’s world. What makes them so is the sharp and smooth direction by  Steve Scott  who understands the playwright inside and out, and it shows. Every detail of this production makes sense and fits perfectly.  When Nat has a “birds and bees” conversation with his 16 years old son, you can sense every father in the house thinking back to his own experience with that special moment-amazing! While the play is 2 1/2 hours in length (with one 15 minute intermission) it seems to move much faster. That is the sign of a well -directed production. The original music and sound (Richard Woodbury), lighting  (Aaron Spivey), costumes (Amy Clark) and stage management (Alden Vasquez) are all key ingredients to making this production one that will be a lasting memory for theater-goers lucky enough to get to see this brilliant production. Have a teen-ager at home? This is the perfect theater experience.

“Ah, Wilderness!” will continue to run at The Goodman Theatre located at 170 N. Dearborn Street thru July 23rd with performances as follows:

Tuesday, July 11th  7:30 p.m.

Wednesdays  7:30 p.m.

Thursdays  2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. (no 2 p.m. on 7/20)

Fridays  8 p.m.

Saturdays  2  and 8 p.m. (no 2 pm on 7/1)

Sundays  2 and 7:30 p.m. no evening on 7/16 or 7/23)

Tickets range from $20-$75 and can be purchased at the box office, by calling 312-443-3800 or online at www.GoodmanTheatre.org/AhWilderness

There are also $10 TIX day of performance for students LIMIT 4 with student ID

ACCESSIBILITY PERFORMANCES

7/15 touch-tour at 12:30 detail for the sightless prior to the performance

the same day, the performance will be audio described

7/19 at 7:30 p.m. ASL interpreted

7/22 Open Captioned

visit http://www.GoodmanTheatre.org/Accessfor more information

Discounted parking details are on the website as well, plus valet parking is available next door at Peterino’s (by the way, a great place for dinner r a snack before or after the show)

To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-Up and click at “Ah, Wilderness!”

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