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Wednesday, November 4,2009

Wild America

by Eric Gallippo

 

The conflicts in
Eugene O’Neill’s “Ah, Wilderness!” may be between people, but director
Andy Callis is bracing for a showdown with nature when LCC’s Theatre
Department raises the curtain Friday night.

“It’s
been an oppressive October — cold, rainy, people have work and school
they are dealing with, and that can get tiring,” he said. “Hopefully
we’ll be able to go back to, and really carry a sense of, a long,
bright hot, summer day.”


The
play, which is a comedy set around the Fourth of July in 1906, tells
the story of the Miller family and its rebellious teenage son, Richard.

“He
thinks the Fourth of July is, in his words, ‘a stupid farce,’” Callis
said. “He’s been reading Oscar Wilde and George Bernard Shaw and Karl
Marx, and he’s gotten in trouble, because he’s been sending love poetry
to his girlfriend, and his girlfriend’s dad thinks it’s blasphemous.”

When
he hears his girlfriend no longer wants to see him, Callis said Richard
gets angry and “makes some bad decisions in order to try and get back
at her.”


The
difference between O’Neill’s protagonist and other coming-of-age
heroes, like J.D. Salinger’s Holden Caulfield, is the supporting cast
and wisdom provided by his family.


Although
the playwright claimed the work wasn’t about his own life, Callis said
biographer Louis Sheaffer has written otherwise, showing how many
characters come from his experiences and a summer and an age when
O’Neill would have been pretty happy compared to the rest of his
childhood.



“It was a labor of
love for him,” Callis said. “I think he said it was the paying of an
old dept. He felt sort of an indebtedness to the people that inspired
him whenhe was growing up.”


Written
during the Depression, Callis said the play is an example of what
O’Neill thought was worth getting back to in America. In the end,
innocence, openness and wilderness win out over guilt, punishment and
sin.


“Nobody is trapped by the past or their guilt or bitterness, as they are in most O’Neill plays,” he said.


’Ah, Wilderness!’


By
Eugene O’Neill Through Nov. 14 8 p.m. Friday & Saturday 2 p.m.
Sunday LCC Theatre, Dart Auditorium, 500 N. Capitol Ave., Lansing
$5/$10 (517) 372-0945 www.lcc.edu/hpa/events



Storm moving in


Stormfield Theatre will make its debut this weekend when it stages a reading of David Lindsay-Abaire’s “Kimberly Akimbo.”


The performance is a
fundraiser for the new company founded by Kristine Thatcher, who was
artistic director of Lansing’s BoarsHead Theater from 2004 through last
August. If all goes well, Thatcher plans to stage a full production of
the play by the end of the current theater season.


Thatcher
has said Stormfield will focus on new works by living playwrights.
Lindsay-Abaire won a Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 2007 for his play
“Rabbit Hole.”


Local
theater fans may also recognize his name from recent local productions
of his “Wonder of the World” (LCC) and “Rabbit Hole” (Peppermint Creek).


“Kimberly”
tells the story of a 16-yearold with a medical condition that makes her
age very rapidly and her friendship with another teen misfit. Playing
the title role for this reading is local favorite Carmen Decker.


“Kimberly
Akimbo,” by David Lindsay-Abaire. 8 p.m. Friday & Saturday; 2 p.m.
Sunday through Nov. 8. 1210 Turner St., Lansing. $15. (517) 327-0945. www.stormfieldtheatre.com.

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