Ah, Wilderness!

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Ah, Wilderness!
Ah Wilderness poster.jpg
Poster for WPA production of Ah, Wilderness! at Federal Theater Playhouse, New Orleans
Written by Eugene O'Neill
Date premiered 2 October 1933
Place premiered Guild Theatre
New York City
Original language English
Genre Comedy
Setting The Miller family home in small town Connecticut, July 4, 1906.
Ah, Wilderness! playbill, 1934, Curran Theatre, San Francisco, California

Ah, Wilderness! is a comedy by American playwright Eugene O'Neill that premiered on Broadway at the Guild Theatre on 2 October 1933. It varies from a typical O'Neill play in its happy ending for the central character, and depiction of a happy family in turn of the century America.

The play was successful in its first Broadway production and the touring production that followed. It has since become a staple of community repertory.

Plot summary[edit]

The play takes place on the Fourth of July, 1906, and focuses on the Miller family, presumably of New London, Connecticut. The main plot deals with the middle son, 16-year-old Richard, and his coming of age in turn of the century America. "Perhaps the most atypical of the author’s works, the play presents a sentimental tale of youthful indiscretion in a turn-of-the-century New England town."[1]

Title[edit]

The title derives from Quatrain XII of Edward Fitzgerald's translation of the Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám (5th edition, 1889), one of Richard's favorite poems:

A Book of Verses underneath the Bough,
A Jug of Wine, a Loaf of Bread—and Thou
Beside me singing in the Wilderness—
Oh, Wilderness were Paradise enow!

Opening Night Cast[edit]

George M. Cohan as Nat Miller
Adelaide Bean as Mildred Miller
John Butler as Salesman
Ruth Chorpenning as Norah
Elisha Cook, Jr. as the son, Richard Miller
Ruth Gilbert as Muriel McComber
Eda Heinemann as Lily Miller
Ruth Holden as Belle
Gene Lockhart as Sid Davis
Marjorie Marquis as David's mother, Essie Miller
Donald McClelland as Bartender
William Post, Jr. as Arthur Miller
Richard Sterling as David McComber
Walter Vonnegut, Jr. as Tommy Miller
John Wynne as Wint Selby

When the play first toured, Will Rogers took the role of the warmhearted Nat, perhaps contributing to the critical and audience success of the play, a staple of community repertory since the original production.[1]

Reception[edit]

The play was included in Burns Mantle's The Best Plays of 1933-1934 with George M. Cohan in the cast[2] and again as a revival in 1941-42.[3]

In a review of a 1998 production of the play at The Huntington Theatre in Boston, the reviewer noted O'Neill, who "penned [it] in a single month in 1932, the Harvard educated playwright takes a well deserved vacation from this cold and unrelenting world, and gives us a surprisingly warm portrayal of middle-class family life in "large small-town America."" He further remarked about the play "The character Richard Miller was clearly modeled on O'Neill's image of himself as an aspiring poet, but unlike O'Neill, Richard's rebellion is quelled and his craving for romantic endeavors extinguished by a loving family who cares and wishes him the best."[4]

Adaptations[edit]

The story was also made into the 1959 Broadway musical Take Me Along starring Jackie Gleason as the drunken Uncle Sid (Beery's role in the film), Walter Pidgeon as Nat and Robert Morse as Richard. The production ran for 448 performances. Gleason won the 1960 Tony Award for Best Actor in a Musical. A revival in 1984 had a successful run for 6 months in CT & Washington D.C. but closed on Broadway after only a short debut and a week of previews.

The play was made into a 1935 film of the same title and again in 1948 as the musical Summer Holiday. Mickey Rooney starred as Tommy in the former and Richard in the latter.

The play was also adapted for the radio on the Campbell Playhouse produced by and starring Orson Welles on September 17, 1939, and Ford Theatre.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "Ah, Wilderness! Play by O’Neill". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved July 9, 2015. 
  2. ^ Catalogue of Copyright Entries: Dramatic Compositions, Motion Pictures. Dramatic Compositions, No. 10, 1934 6. 1934. p. 5835. Retrieved July 9, 2015. 
  3. ^ Burns Mantle, ed. (1942). The Best Plays of 1941-42 and the Yearbook of the Drama in America. New York: Dodd, Mead and Company. Retrieved July 9, 2015. 
  4. ^ Olveczky, Bence (June 12, 1998). "Ah, Wilderness!: Eugene O'Neill's play about his best friends as a kid" 118 (28). Cambridge, Massachusetts: The Tech. Retrieved July 9, 2015. 

Further reading[edit]

  • O'Neill, Eugene (1933). Ah, Wilderness: A Comedy of Recollection in Three Acts (First ed.). London: Samuel French. OCLC 70376389. 

External links[edit]