Under Milk Wood

Friday, February 8th, 2008 | All Things, Arts

This winter has seen a couple of productions of the works of Welsh poet Dylan “Do not go gentle into that good night” Thomas. His Child’s Christmas in Wales was produced at the Irish Repertory Theatre in December, and this month, the Intimation Theatre Company staged Thomas’ only play, Under Milk Wood, as its inaugural production.

Originally written as a radio play, Under Milk Wood — subtitled “a play for voices” — was first broadcast (posthumously) in January 1954 by the BBC with a distinguished all-Welsh cast, including Richard Burton. Later, it was put on as a stage play and then adapted into a 1972 film, with Burton reprising his role, supported by Hollywood luminaries Elizabeth Taylor and Peter O’Toole. The plot follows an entire day in the life of the inhabitants of the imaginary seaside town of Llareggub, Wales — that’s “Bugger all,” backwards — so classy!

To begin at the beginning:
It is spring, moonless night in the small town, starless and bible-black, the cobblestreets silent and the hunched, courters’-and-rabbits’ wood limping invisible down to the sloeblack, slow, black, crowblack, fishingboat-bobbing sea.

Under Milk Wood

For the first twenty minutes, the entire cast wandered the stage with closed eyes, and we were brought through each character’s dreams– 40+ in all — guided by a pair of omniscient narrators (“voices”). I cast a sidelong glance at SC, and fleetingly wondered if I would ever be allowed to pick another play again.

But once the day began in earnest, and we were able to get into the groove of Thomas’ poetry, things picked up considerably. (Good thing, as there was no intermission.) The action followed the townspeople through their daily business, shifting among sets of characters as they sang, worked, frolicked, gossiped, lusted, reminisced and plotted murder — with some surprisingly bawdy language.

Thomas had worked on this, his final work, for years and in October 1953 he delivered a full draft of Under Milk Wood to the BBC as he left for his fourth and ultimately, final, American tour. He gave his first public reading of the script in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and soon after, sound-recorded a performance at the 92nd Street Y. Within the month, after a famous drinking binge at New York’s White Horse Tavern — the “18 whiskies” of legend — Thomas fell into a coma and died at St. Vincent’s Hospital, just a couple of weeks after his 39th birthday.

In the poet’s wake, we have this play, which stands as a testament to the lyrical dignity in the everyday. Read the beginning of Under Milk Wood here.

In other theater news:  On the strength of last week’s favorable reviews, Mike Leigh’s Two Thousand Years has been extended at The Acorn through March 22, 2008.

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February 19, 2008

And everyday is Saturday my friend
Go to sleep
Wake up
Yo! It’s Saturday again

Go for it ...