Boy do I never get tired of seeing our amazing School of Music, Theatre, and Dance students perform. In the first play of the 2016-2017 year, they sure did not disappoint. This one was one of Eugene O’Neill’s more lighthearted plays, which meant not every character was terminally sad and there were a good number of jokes, but it also came with moments of sincerity and serious undertones.
The play revolved around a young boy named Richard who had just been rejected by his love, Muriel. This results in Richard galavanting off with one of his older brother’s friends and an older woman at a bar, where he becomes drunk and gets kicked out by the barkeep. He later finds out he had been deceived by Muriel’s father, and Muriel did indeed still love him. They meet to apologize and Richard explains what he had done. Everyone ends up surprisingly happy, which seems like a rare thing to come by in an O’Neill play.
Throughout the play, Richard’s father, Nat Miller, plays a strong role as a classic American father. He wants his son to become the best he can be, but is hesitant to punish him as he personally does not like having to punish his children. Some of the most touching moments in the play were when Nat would try to discipline his son or have a serious conversation about life, but ended up getting embarrassed and leaving Richard confused. There was obvious chemistry between the two actors that truly resembled a genuine father-son relationship and made watching the two grow through story even more touching.
I would say the most impressive part of this performance was the cast’s ability to perform the subtle humor of the play. Not all of the jokes were outright funny, but had more nuance to them, and the cast portrayed this nuance perfectly. The cast even executed the more boisterous humor, like uncle Sid coming home drunk, incredibly well in all of its absurdity.
Finally, the set design was extraordinary. The women’s garb was exactly out of the 1900s, with the collared dresses and big waisted skirts. The men as well were iconic, with goggled sunglasses and boater hats. The bar scene was quintessential, and the home decor at the Miller residence set the mood for a suburban American family at the turn of the century. These little details made the story easier to follow, putting the radical thoughts of Richard Miller in perspective with the rest of the world at that time.
All in all, this was a very touching coming-of-age story, filled with many classic family brawls and a beautiful romantic scene under the moonlight. The actors did a spectacular job of portraying a close family going through daily life, and bringing the audience into this little slice of life O’Neill wrote a century ago.