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Theatre Review (Pasadena): Desire Under the Elms by Eugene O’Neill at A Noise Within

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A Noise Within, now located in the beautiful new facility in Pasadena, is giving us a chance to see the rarely produced Desire Under The Elms by Eugene O’Neill.

Desire Under the Elms was first produced at the Provincetown players in 1924. The press release describes the show as a “darkly humorous salute to the combustible essence of Greek drama”. It is no wonder that O’Neill chose Greek drama as his model for this tale of a family caught in an incestuous triangle. O’Neill’s own life resembled a Greek tragedy so it seemed natural for him to be drawn to a classical model.  The typical O’Neill elements are all there, a tyrannical father, a wastrel son, family tension, and sexual underpinnings, and an absent mother whose demise is blamed on the father.

The story involves young Eben Cabot whose mother has died and who has a passion to claim the farm as his own. His father, Ephraim has disappeared and his brothers are about to leave for California and the gold rush. Suddenly Ephraim returns with a new young bride in tow who has her own plans to take over the farm. Eventually the new bride, Abbie Putnam, seduces Eben and has his child, telling Ephraim that the child is his. Eben starts to distrust his new mother-in-law and the story takes a tragic turn.

The production values are quite high. John Iacovilli giving us one of his brilliant sets, this time a New England Farmhouse. Jim Taylor designed the atmospheric lighting and Julie Keen provided the authentic costumes. Endre Bologh has composed some appropriate music. The very capable Damaso Rodriguez directs this masterpiece with expert vision and awareness where the tension should build.

I also liked the cast very mush with William Dennis Hunt playing Ephraim, a role he seems ideal for. Jason Deshert is the fiery Eben and Monette Magrath the new bride. She has a nice balance of sexuality and practicality.

You may not get a chance to see this play again, at least in Los Angeles so I suggest you drive on over the Pasadena to catch a great play in a wonderful new theatre, Desire Under The Elms plays is rep with 12th Night at A Noise Within until Dec. 18th

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