BOTTOM LINE: A clear, creative, eerie adaptation of the Oscar Wilde novel.
If you can make it to only one show during the Planet Connections Theatre Festivity, The Picture of Dorian Gray should be at the top of your list. Glory Bowen’s adaptation of the story is clear and her direction appropriately eerie. With a talented ensemble of actors and solid overall production value this is a show that frequent theatre patrons as well as tourists looking to explore alternatives to Broadway will enjoy.
Wilde’s story revolves around the “natural, simple, beauty” of a man by the name of Dorian Gray (Adam Michael Barrie). Basil Hallward (Eric Percival), an artist, is enamored of Dorian and paints the most exquisite portrait of the young man. Also taken by Dorian’s beauty (as well as anything else that is beautiful, indulgent, or of material or carnal pleasure) is the vain Lord Henry (Walter Brandes). Henry comments that beauty is the only thing of any value in life and manages to convince Dorian of the same. Stating that he would trade his soul if he could only stay young and that Basil’s portrait should grow old in his place, Dorian unknowingly seals his fate. It doesn’t take long for Henry’s influence on Dorian to grow stronger, nor for Dorian’s vanity to increase. After he selfishly breaks the heart of his one true love, Sybil Vane (Allison Hirschlag), he notices that his portrait has a sneer and that his earlier wish has somehow been granted. With each passing day the portrait grows older, but what’s worse is that with every sin Dorian commits his portrait reflects the ugliness of his soul. “I would hate for my soul to be horrid,” he confesses, but it is too late.
Percival’s Basil is simple and poised, completely believable as a composed artist with a secret passion and a good soul. Barrie’s conflicted Dorian is a bit of a Dandy, an easily influenced and even more easily flattered youth. There is a certain charm to his sophomoric naiveté. Brandes embraces every delicious Wildean line with wit and subtle double entendre. He is delightful in a most detestable way. Beautifully cast and costumed, the ensemble seems like they walked right out of the late Victorian era. Floating picture frames, ghost like images, and mysterious music all add to the haunted house feeling of the production.
A creative, yet honorable adaptation for the stage, this production reignited my interest in the original story. Solid production value and clear storytelling by the director and a talented cast make this a production worth seeing. As Henry explains to Basil and Dorian, “It is bad for one’s morals to see bad acting.” Well, then my morals weren’t compromised at all, and yours won’t be either when you see The Picture of Dorian Gray in this summer’s Planet Connections Theatre Fest.
(The Picture Of Dorian Gray is part of the Planet Connections Festivity and plays at the Robert Moss Theatre, 440 Lafayette Street. Remaining performances are June 12th at 8:30pm, June 15th at 8:30pm, June 18th at 6:30pm and June 21st at 6:30pm. Tickets are $18 and can be purchased at www.planetconnectionsfestivity.com or by calling 866.811.4111. Proceeds from this production benefit GLAAD.)