How to make Eugene O’Neill’s only comedy even more ludicrous? Stage it as a musical! An ironic wit seeps through the sweet nostalgia of the Irish Rep’s production.
By Ellen Wernecke
It’s the Fourth of July in Centerville, Connecticut, and the members of the Miller household are all preparing to celebrate in their own ways. Patriarch Nat (William Parry) and his sweet wife Essie (Donna Bullock) eagerly await the arrival of Essie’s brother Sid (Don Stephenson) back for the festivities. Sid, the familial black sheep, packed off to Waterbury to reform, arrives at the station clutching his carpetbag, flat broke and assuring his friends, “I’ve changed… from bourbon to rye.” He intends to once again woo his old sweetheart, Nat’s sister Lily (Beth Glover), to whom he had once been engaged before she broke it off. Meanwhile, Nat and Essie’s son Richard (Teddy Eck) is tortured by his separation from his young girlfriend when her father (Gordon Stanley) discovers him reading “questionable” poetry and plays to her. (Of one such work, the marauding father declares, “You know how evil a play has to be to offend New York.”)
It’s not betraying the source material to say the O’Neill play “Ah, Wilderness!” on which “Take Me Along” was based is the only work of the playwright’s in which problems are resolved, worries are put to rest and no one ends up going to bed angry. The folksy-Americana songs which fill out the musical (think “The Music Man” with more solos and fewer unison parts) serve to advance the plot in that way, from the barbershop quartet-style “Sid Ol’ Kid” to Richard’s melodramatic “I Would Die” and the bouncy titular theme. (Standards fans might also recognize Sid and Lily’s second-act ballad “But Yours,” recently covered by none other than “Family Guy”’s Seth MacFarlane at a Writers’ Guild benefit at Carnegie Hall.) Parry’s Nat is a George Baileyesque patriarch who laments that “everyone around me’s getting old,” but the interplay between Stephenson and Glover, a couple agreed to separate as counterpoint to the young lovers separated by society,
Glover in particular (currently doing double duty as a wealthy, unfaithful Jazz Age socialite in “Glimpses of the Moon”) turns in a nuanced performance of her conventional character; her lament “Promise Me A Rose” acts as a fermata, encapsulating the musical’s drowsy nostalgia as sweetly as the watercolor-township backdrop.
Through April 13 at the Irish Repertory Theatre
132 W. 22nd Street
Tickets $55-$60, (212) 727-2737
For more information visit IrishRep.org
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