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Editor: Frederick Wilkins
Suffolk University, Boston

Vol. IX, No. 3
Winter, 1985


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IN THIS ISSUE)

REVIEWS OF O'NEILL PLAYS IN PERFORMANCE

2. AH, WILDERNESS!, directed by Glenn Cannon. Kennedy Theatre. University of Hawaii, Honolulu, April 18 - May 3. 1985.

Honolulu is hardly a center for culture. Pastimes in the capital of the fiftieth state run to simpler. more primitive forms of fun. There is, however, at least one island in that sea of escapism that has a concern for the "finer" things of life. It is the University of Hawaii. whose theatre department boasts an extensive program which this past year included a full-scale production of Chinese opera. direct from Beijing. The department's production of O'Neill's Ah, Wilderness! was in the school's tradition of artistic excellence.

Capably directed by Glenn Cannon. the production rose to a real professionalism at times, and was never truly amateurish. Throughout, the play showed Cannon's strong directorial hand. The text was treated with due respect. but not slavishly. In a few instances, idiomatic changes dictated by the passage of decades since the play's composition were boldly made. decidedly improving the play. (For instance, when it is Belle's fair turn to pay for drinks, she says she will "treat" Richard----a definite improvement for the sake of today's audience!)

Daniel Kelin as Richard. (Photo by Malcolm Mekaru.)

Daniel Kelin as Richard walked the fine line between too much and too little. It is very easy to overplay the role and appear more like a spastic child than a frustrated teenager. It is also a simple matter to underplay the character and fail to bring out his late-adolescent anxieties. Kelin did not merely flop about and whine; his plaints and gestures seemed genuine enough.

As Richard's long-suffering parents, Dean Turner and Meg Roach provided a good balance between New England propriety and down-to-earth reality: Essie was properly embarrassed by every indiscretion of language or behavior, and Nat moved easily from agreeable chagrin to an honest acceptance of things as they are. Sylvia Hormann-Alper was appropriately spinsterly as Lily Miller, and exhibited clearly (to us) the hurt she hid from others. As Sid Davis, Wayne Kischer was truly a caution, conveying all the humor in his lines and acting the inebriate with skill. Tommy (David Kimo Ige--actually suffering from chicken pox through some of the run!) was a presence that would not be ignored, yet he could hardly be accused of scene-stealing. Eve Mercier's Belle was a brazen temptress, creating a strong sympathy for poor Richard's predicament. And sputtering George Spelvin performed a David McComber as obnoxious as Lei Kaniaupio's Muriel McComber was charming.

The set design (by Tom Giza) was satisfactory, if predictable. An ample stage provided room to work out the scenes in the Miller home without crowding; while the set for the hotel scene was small and intimate, suggesting the feeling of uncomfortable closeness that Richard experiences in his heady brush with the world. The beach set was the poorest, as usual. Set designers always seem to experience great difficulty bringing the outdoors in.

The University of Hawaii's production of Ah, Wilderness! was a genuinely satisfying one. While the play may be called "easy O'Neill"--perhaps the only O'Neill work to merit such qualification--it is good O'Neill, and good theatre as well--facts that this production succeeded in proving once again.

--Eugene K. Hanson

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