AN IDEAL HUSBAND
By Oscar Wilde
Directed by Robert Currier
For tickets / schedule :
Forest Meadows Amphitheatre, Dominican University of California
RUN: August 23-September 27, 2014
RATING: 5 of 5 stars
(September 5, 2014)
An Ideal Husband is the finest play of Marin Shakespeare’s 25 years; it is an absolute must see. First performed in 1895 during the all too brief height of Oscar Wilde’s career, this glimpse into his brilliance contains foreshadowing of the playwright’s ultimate demise. The plot centers on London’s high society, as Sir Robert Chiltern finds himself blackmailed with the threat of ruin, unless he puts his political power behind a rather dubious Argentine Canal swindle. “Sir Robert, you know what your English newspapers are like. Suppose that when I leave this house I drive down to some newspaper office, and give them this scandal and the proofs of it! Think of their loathsome joy, of the delight they would have in dragging you down, of the mud and mire they would plunge you in.” Within months of the play’s opening, Oscar Wilde found himself thus treated by the press and society. The crackling wit of the play is mingled with a real sense of despair and fear, lending a dark aspect to an otherwise light comedy. With the right actors and direction, An Ideal Husband can bring an audience to tears, yet within minutes fill them with elation and laughter. Marin Shakespeare achieves this effect, allowing the play to fully bloom into its potential.
Combining the vivacious Cat Thompson (Mrs. Cheveley) and spirited Darren Bridgett (Lord Goring) is always an unqualified success, and in An Ideal Husband they are joined by a stellar cast. Julian Lopez-Morillas, as The Earl of Caversham, was an Anthony Trollope character come to life, a true Victorian father given flesh and blood. Lady Chiltern (Marcia Pizzo) brought a warmth and dignity to her role that touched the heart, and the Duchess of Maryborough (Jane Papish) swept through with the sarcastic wit of the Dowager Countess of Grantham in Downton Abbey.
An Ideal Husband centers around the fascinating and dangerous figure of Mrs. Cheveley, a calculating seductress used to getting her own way. She both captivates and repels the audience with her merciless wit and scheming. Surrounded by society repartee, which makes her character all the more sinister, Cat Thompson’s portrayal oozes femme fatale, while keeping carefully within the restrictions of Victorian society.
Marin Shakespeare’s production evokes the opulent indifference of the late Victorian era. Abra Berman’s luxurious costumes mingle with Jackson Currier’s chaise lounges and parlor sets. Even the scene transitions are amusing, as servants, under the close supervision of the butler (Steven Salzman), are perplexed with how to move a chair while their master is still in it, snoring softly.
This play can be a fun evening out, or thought-provoking commentary on the human condition, but either way it is a night that is difficult to forget. I have never been more impressed with a Marin Shakespeare production, and would recommend stopping by Forest Meadows not once, but twice to see it. As Mrs. Cheveley would say, “An acquaintance that begins with a compliment is sure to develop into a real friendship.”