American Century Theater’s Desire Under the ElmsBy Laura & Mike Clark • Jan 7th, 2007 • Category: Reviews
Listen to our review of The American Century Theater’s production of Desire Under the Elms [MP3 6:38 1.9MB].
Mike: Desire Under the Elms was written by Eugene O’Neill in 1924. It takes place on a New England farm in the 1850’s. The action focuses on the Cabot family. Ephraim is the father of the family. He has a new wife, Abbie. The sons in the family are Eben, Simeon, and Peter. Simeon and Peter head out pretty early to California to find their fortune. The main tension comes between Ephraim, Abbie, and Eben. Abbie and Eben fall in love and have an affair. Abbie gets pregnant and has a baby. She lets Ephraim think that it’s his baby. Later Abbie is torn by thoughts that she might lose Eben because of the baby so she kills the baby. That has lots of serious consequences for the entire family.
Laura: This show will definitely make you think because there is a lot of tension. A lot of soap opera going on in there as far as affairs, and anger and judgement. I liked the show. It kept my attention. I liked the conflict. It took me about a scene to get used to the accents. But once I got past that scene I could understand it easily and knew what they were going for. I liked their emotions.
Mike: One thing that was very interesting is all the materials that we’ve seen about the show is talking about how controversial the show is because it deals with incest and murder and greed and lust and all those different human emotions. When the show first came out there were different cases where the actors were arrested for performing obscene works. So with all that kind of hype coming in, I wasn’t sure if this was really going to be a good show or not. It really was a fascinating study of the human condition. The characters interacted great together. I don’t think it quite lived up to the hype of obscene. A lot of these things we’ve seen on Law & Order almost every single episode. The kid sleeping with the stepmother or the wife having an affair or I want to burn the house down just so you don’t get it. All of theses things we’ve seen in lots of other places. To a point we were kind of blase about it. The way these characters were put together it was fascinating and I really liked watching it unfold before me.
Laura: The role of Ephraim Cabot the head of the family was played by Kevin Adams. I felt that Ephraim was a very sad, but very stubborn man. He was very determined and judgmental. He was going to work his farm and it didn’t matter what anybody else thought. He didn’t look 70. One of the lines in the script said he was doing pretty good for 70. He didn’t quite play it as a 70 year old. He was still very believable. One thing that I thought was kind of interesting is he had a wedding band on. In the 1850’s he was a poor farmer and I’m not sure he could have afforded a wedding band. That was kind of interesting.
Mike: The youngest son, Eben Cabot, was played by Parker Dixon. I really enjoyed watching his characterization of the poor farmer waiting to take revenge on the father for taking his mother’s land. At the beginning of the show, Eben was very solicitous and very manipulative of his brothers. He came up with a plan that he was able to hatch once he realized the father was coming back with his new wife. It was also very interesting watching him fall in love and try to deny himself the love that he was feeling for Abbie. The relationship that Eben had with his father and his stepmother was very complex.
Laura: Ephraim Cabot’s third wife, Abbie Putnam was played by Susan Marie Rhea. She was really interesting to watch. When she first came home with Ephraim she seemed not old, but mature. When she fell in love with Eben, she suddenly took on a youthfulness. It almost seemed like she went back about ten years. After she had a baby, who she tried to say was Ephraim’s, she again became older and more mature. She had strong emotions, she seemed to wear her heart on her sleeve. She knew that she truly loved Eben and would do anything for him. She loved Eben, but she wanted land of her own and would do anything to get that.
Mike: The opening scene of the show included two brothers: Simeon Cabot played by John Geoffrion and Peter Cabot played by Colin Smith. They were really quite effective as the very close brotherss who thought very similarly. They worked together really well in the field at the beginning of the show, and making fun of Eben. They really did feel like a team that had been together for a really long time.
Laura: The set for Desire Under the Elms was a simple set. There were three areas: a bed, kind of a living room area, and then another bed with a kitchen. You knew from the way the furniture was arranged that it was the inside of the house. Then you had an outside area where in one scene they were folding up some laundry. I liked that contrast between the inside and the outside of the house.
Mike: The lighting design by Scot Folsom was really quite effective. There were separate sections of the stage that were lit with different brightnesses of light. It faded frequently as the characters moved throughout. It was not distracting. Also adding to the ambiance of the show was the music in the background, some kind of dulcimer instrument. It felt very real. It really added to the show. At some points, though, it was a little bit too loud, which did distract a bit.
Laura: Desire Under the Elms is playing at The Gunston Arts Center in Arlington Virginia. Weekends January 5th trough February 3rd.
Mike: Once you’ve seen the show, feel free to leave your comments about it. We’d also like to invite you to join our mailing list so you can keep informed about upcoming auditions and other information about theater in the DC metro area.
Laura: And now, on with the show.
Photos provided by American Century Theater.
This article can be linked to as: http://washingtondc.showbizradio.com/goto/1832.
Laura & Mike Clark started ShowBizRadio in August 2005 because they love live theater. They each have both performed in and worked behind the scenes in DC area productions, as well as earned a Career Studies Certificate in Theater from Northern Virginia Community College. Mike & Laura are each members of the American Theatre Critics Association, and Mike is a member of the Online News Association.