Read Ah, Wilderness! by Eugene O'Neill Free Online
Book Title: Ah, Wilderness!|
The author of the book: Eugene O'Neill
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 620 KB
Edition: Samuel French, Inc.
Date of issue: April 7th 2017
ISBN 13: 9780573605147
City - Country: No data
Loaded: 1568 times
Reader ratings: 3.6
Read full description of the books:
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!-- Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam
I saw a production of this play last night at Chicago’s Goodman Theater, where I have been seeing plays for decades, including several productions of O’Neill’s most famous plays such as Long Day’s Journey into Night, and the Iceman Cometh. A sentimental romance, it is the only comedy O’Neill wrote, coming in the middle of an almost unprecedented explosion of some of the very greatest plays in the history of theater. After seeing the play I decided to read it for the first time. On the one hand, no thanks; it feels like he was answering a challenge from his friends/viewers: Hey, Eugene, I betcha can’t write a play that will make us laugh and feel good about ourselves! On the other hand, it's solid, a reflective fantasy on the life O'Neill never lived, with a teen main character very much like himself, so that's interesting. What if he had had parents who confronted him about his drinking and encouraged him in love and life?
So Ah, Wilderness sort of works, and it has sweetness throughout, but the depth of his greatest and most sorrowful plays makes this play pale in comparison. Written in one month in 1933, it focuses on the happy Miller family on Fourth of July weekend, 1906. O’Neill was born in a hotel room; his own mother was a morphine addict; his father was on the road for years in a traveling production. O’Neill was put in a boarding school at 7, and throughout his tumultuous life he suffered bitter depression, alcoholism. He spent many years on the sea that he loved, but his life and work was tragedy, on the whole.
The teen and lead character, Richard, is an aspiring poet, just beginning to rebel against his parents. He shares snippets of what might have seemed at the time racy poetry that his girlfriend’s father finds, forcing his daughter to write a letter breaking up with Richard. The very next night an older friend of Richard talks him into going to a bar where he drinks for the first time and has a brief, funny, but pretty uneventful encounter with a lady of the evening. Richard rolls home drunk, and in big trouble, though later the next day he gets a note from his ex making it clear she still loves him, saying the note was a forced and false endeavor. The parents, too, initially upset, discover his penitence convincing and are pretty soft on him, taking the moment to also rekindle their own love for each other. Love, love, all around and a happy ending.
I have to say the play made me a little sad, since O’Neill himself never experienced anything like the happy and supportive family he depicts here— and two of his own children committed suicide, too--which is part of the reason why, though often pretty funny, Ah, Wilderness feels not quite convincing as an endorsement of Love Everlasting. One interesting aspect of the production I saw, though, was that a range of ethnicities are represented in the casting in a way that could not have socially (or even physically!) been possible at the time. The Irish Dad is married to an African-American mom, and Richard is a white red-haired kid. A sister appears to be Asian, a brother possibly Indian, and Uncle (brother of the Irish Dad) is also African-American, and so on. Blended family? Not in 1906! I liked that aspect of the production, though; it made for an interesting reflection on racial family-making, even if O'Neill's play wasn't about that. The play is a sentimental fantasy of love, and a kind of fantasy of 1906 life, or the life O'Neill never lived, in some ways. I liked seeing it, but give me anguishing tragic O’Neill every time. ☺
So O’Neill, born in a hotel room, also died in one. As he was dying, he whispered his last words: "I knew it. I knew it. Born in a hotel room and died in a hotel room."
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Read information about the authorEugene Gladstone O'Neill was an American playwright who won the 1936 Nobel Prize in Literature "for the power, honesty and deep-felt emotions of his dramatic works, which embody an original concept of tragedy." More than any other dramatist, O'Neill introduced American drama to the dramatic realism pioneered by Russian playwright Anton Chekhov, Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen, and Swedish playwright August Strindberg, and was the first to use true American vernacular in his speeches.
His plays involve characters who inhabit the fringes of society, engaging in depraved behavior, where they struggle to maintain their hopes and aspirations but ultimately slide into disillusionment and despair. O'Neill wrote only one comedy (Ah, Wilderness!): all his other plays involve some degree of tragedy and personal pessimism.
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