Those who joined the Women’s Liberation movement of the 1960s and
1970s might have taken a few tips from Alexandra Bergson, the lead
character in Willa Cather’s “O Pioneers!”, the play based on her
novel, being produced by A Noise Within.
Alexandra inherits her father’s bleak land in the Midwest, and by
sheer will, determination and imagination, forges it into a
productive oasis that brings her wealth and comfort, albeit at the
expense of love.
Geoff Elliott and Julia Rodriguez Elliott direct this gem, flowing
with music and rich in drama. Cather’s tale, set in the 1880s,
bristles with ethnic tension, as we find characters talking about the
attitudes of the Bohemians, the Swedes and other groups that had come
to America to find their fortunes.
Human frailties abound, not the least of which is the eternal
conflict between the sexes, where Alexandra struggles to be taken
seriously in her efforts to advance, because she’s a woman and often
the victim of gossip and calumny.
Lust and adultery are no strangers in the strongly religious
community, as two lovers finally declare their feelings, in spite of
the fact that she is married to another, and eventually their love
brings them face to face with tragedy. Greed and avarice pervade as
even Alexandra’s brothers turn on her when they see her success,
claiming her land belongs to them.
The musical adaptation by Darrah Cloud, with music by Kim D.
Sherman, literally reverberates on an almost-barren stage that
accentuates the emptiness of the land. When the cast members break
into song, a tingle comes to the back of the neck, as their feelings
become yours. David O’s wonderful keyboarding is beautifully accented
by Liza Liu’s haunting cello, with its melancholy legatos echoing the
Deborah Strang is absolutely superb in the lead role, with Geoff
Elliott as Carl Linstrum, her unfulfilled love, and Robert Pescovitz,
Thomas Patrick Kelly and Christopher Gerson as the brothers. Megan
Goodchild and Gerson play the tragic lovers.