Strong Cast Explores ‘Ah, Wilderness!’


“Ah, Wilderness!,” Eugene O’Neill’s idealized portrait of family life in turn-of-the-century America, is as much personal exorcism as art, the tormented O’Neill’s escapist vision of a more stable, cozier world, where love is unconditional and home is where the heart is.

Despite a three-hour-plus running time, our attention never flags during A Noise Within’s production, thanks to Sabin Epstein’s fluid direction and a nosegay of wonderful performances.

Thomas Buderwitz’s cozy set design, Charles Tomlinson’s handsome costumes and Alison Radin’s mellow lighting set the mood for this relaxing plunge into vintage Americana. If not handled carefully, O’Neill’s characters can verge on the stereotypical, but Epstein and his actors wisely explore the inherent dichotomy that each presents.


Neil Vipond beautifully captures the mellow crustiness of Nat Miller, the benevolent patriarch who heads this extended family. June Claman, who plays Essie, Nat’s wife, is both flibbertigibbet and family rock. As Richard, Nat and Essie’s rebellious son, Daniel Getzoff combines adolescent passion with childlike naivete.

Nat’s sister Lily and Essie’s brother Sid, star-crossed lovers who have never married because of Sid’s alcoholism, are played by Bridget Connors and Jefrey Alan Chandler, respectively. Connors is spinsterish yet sexually tender; Chandler, whose animated facial expressions are reminiscent of Joe E. Brown’s, is a perfectly tragic clown. Connors and Chandler are standouts--no mean feat in this exceptional cast.

* “Ah, Wilderness!” A Noise Within, 234 S. Brand Blvd., Glendale. today-Saturday, April 3-4, 19, 24-25, May 4, 8-10, 16-18, 8 p.m.; April 7, 7 p.m.; April 20 and May 5, 2 p.m.; May 25, 2 and 8 p.m. $18-$22. (818) 546-1924. Running time: 3 hours, 15 minutes.