'Ah, Wilderness!' on stage March 17

For St. Patrick’s Day, fans of Readers Theatre, Gresham, can take in the great Irish-American playwright Eugene O’Neill’s comedic “Ah, Wilderness!”

The one-night-only performance will be presented at 7 p.m. Monday, March 17, in the Gresham Chapel and Evening Event Center, 257 S.E. Roberts CONTRIBUTED PHOTO - Curtis Hanson, Chris Botcheos, Jim Lamproe and Berta Linbaugh rehearse a scene for the Readers Theatre pesentation of Ah, Wilderness! by Eugene ONeill.

Tickets are $9 and will be available at the door.

Readers Theatre, a program of Sandy Actors Theatre, features actors with scripts in-hand on a bare stage, interpreting the play’s story without the embellishment of sets, costumes or lighting. Director Anita Sorel of Sandy says Readers Theatre “lets the audience actually hears the words better.

“You take someone like O’Neill, who writes so wonderfully, and it allows the audience to focus on his words more because the emphasis on the script,” Sorel says.

Stab at funny

O’Neill’s sole comedy, “Ah, Wilderness!” deals with a middle son, 16-year-old Richard Miller, and his coming of age on the Fourth of July in 1906. The play debuted in 1933 on Broadway, and was later made into a movie as well as two different musicals.

“This comedy is completely out of character for Eugene O’Neill, for he has taken autobiographical elements and manipulated them with romantic nostalgia, unabashed sentiment and humor instead of the bitterness, anger and self-criticism he displays in much of his work,” Sorel says. “The tone of amused tolerance and the nostalgia for lost innocence that pervade the play recall a simpler age.”

Sorel says that the play seemed easy to write for O’Neill “and represented a pleasant vacation from the seriousness of ‘Mourning Becomes Electra,’ which he was also writing at the time.”

Sorel adds that “Wilderness” is the “only gentle play he ever wrote as well as the only play about innocence.”

The cast includes Curtis Hanson as Nat Miller, Berta Limbaugh as Mildred Miller, Brian Allard as Sid Davis, Mitchell Stephens as Richard Miller, Chris Botcheos as Arthur Miller, Lexy Dillon as Norah, Tim Park as Mr. McComber, Brianna Sehorn as Murial McComber (and Belle), and Jim Lamproe as the bartender.

“It’s a happy play,” Sorel says. “It has charm and warmth. Some people say this play shows the family O’Neill wished he had had. And it’s not just about Richard Miller coming of age, it’s about the family coming of age. They realize the world is changing and becoming more modern and they must change with it.”

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