A Noise Within Theatre Company recently invited me to present on Eugene O’Neill in conjunction with their spring production of O’Neill’s Ah, Wilderness! The trip south represented a rare opportunity of which I am sure many Southern Californians were unaware. Not only was LA getting A Noise Within’s production of Ah, Wilderness!, but in nearby Westwood the Geffen Playhouse was producing O’Neill’s Long Day’s Journey into Night, featuring Alfred Molina and Jane Kaczmerek. Seeing both productions was a great opportunity to experience an artist’s efforts to reconcile with a painful past in two completely different ways.
Famously, LDJN is O’Neill’s tormented take on his family that plays so closely to his autobiography that it’s hard to distinguish a difference. Ah, Wilderness!, on the other hand, represents O’Neill’s fantasy of “a road not taken.” A version of his family in which love and support (absent in his real life) yields a hopeful outlook. Had O’Neill’s life followed the fantasy we would probably have been robbed of some great art, but Eugene O’Neill certainly would have had a happier life. His loss is our gain.
Viewed together the two plays shed light on O’Neill’s hopes and regrets. And thankfully the artist O’Neill renders all of this in such a way that it deepens the understanding of our regrets and joys, and the choices and forces that brought them into being.
I am happy to say that both productions were effective ambassadors for the playwright, and that his winter months in LA this year are being well spent. He will be in good condition when he takes flight on his way to join us at Tao House this Fall.
Eric Fraisher Hayes
Artistic Director, RPE
Artistic Director, EONF