There was one of those audible audience reaction moments during Desire Under The Elms. I'm not talking about laughter, I'm talking about a sharp intake of breath, even a few 'oh's' around the auditorium.
I haven't seen many Eugene O'Neill plays but all those I've seen seem to expose the pure, often blind, power of certain human emotions. He pops the lid of the shaken soda bottle and Desire Under The Elms is no exception as the audience response demonstrates.
It's a farm setting, mud stage with wheat crop at the back, a water pump, pieces of farm equipments and then at various points pieces of furniture - a table, a bed etc are brought on. Eben (Michael Shea) and his older half brothers have been left to work their father Ephraim's (Matthew Kelly) farm as he has disappeared. There is no love lost between the siblings and also with their father. The older brothers want to leave, head west to the gold fields to make their fortune while Eben wants to take control of the farm believing it is rightly his as it belonged to his late mother.
We hear a lot about Ephraim from the brothers and it heightens the expectation of his inevitable arrival. When he does arrive he has a new young wife Abbie (Aoife Duffin) in tow. He walks slowly with a slight stoop, looks frail but he is anything but. He soon puts Eben in his place, the animosity towards him from his children is well deserved, this is not a loving father rather one that would rather burn the farm to the ground than leave it to his wastrel sons.