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Desire Under The Elms

Lyric Hammersmith

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#1 mallardo

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Posted 20 October 2012 - 09:32 AM

No one here seems much interested in this but it's a Eugene O'Neill play that gets an airing every once in a while - it was on Broadway two seasons back with the lucious Carla Gugino - so I went along to Hammersmith.

It's a bizarre play as almost all O'Neill plays from the early 20s seem to be.  Brute-like hard scrabble farmers with poetic souls enacting a Greek tragedy in 19th century New England.  It takes a while to warm up but it does become oddly compelling and Sean Holmes makes a good case for it in this production.  The set by Ian MacNeil is a series of boxes containing rooms that are shoved in and out individually or together as they're needed.  The rooms are all small and cramped - there's a party scene with dancing that made me think of the famous stateroom scene in the Marx Brothers' Night At The Opera - which actually works to good effect providing the right stifling atmosphere.  There are no elms.

The cast is dominated by Denise Gough who I didn't know and who is absolutely wonderful in the difficult role of Abbie, the patriarch's new bride.  She's the hinge of the plot and she makes the most of it.  The patriarch himself, Ephraim Cabot - the names say it all - is given an interesting interpretation by Finbar Lynch who is very good but somewhat wrong for the role.  He gets laughs where I'm not sure he should.  The weak link however is Morgan Watkins as the tortured younger son, Eben. He represents the Desire part of the title but he's just too weird and infantile to make it work. Why Abbie gets so worked up about him is a mystery.  And that's the core of the story.

It doesn't entirely work then but there's much to like.  Recommended to the afficionados.
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#2 dude-1981

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Posted 20 October 2012 - 12:06 PM

I rather enjoyed this and yes Denise Gough was excellent.  In fact I'd second most of what you said, I know what you mean about Finbar Lynch and I'd have liked to have seen.... I don't know..... Joseph Drake as Eben.

There is a lot to see at the moment, but I'm glad I added another O'Neill to my collection.
If, for some strange reason you care what I've seen, it's all here:

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