We all know Dorian Gray. We all know Oscar Wilde. Or at least I think I do. But then I see quotes like, “All art is quite useless” -Oscar Wilde (preface to The Picture of Dorian Gray) and I may need to think again. Isn’t Oscar Wilde the playwright of The Importance of Being Earnest? That funny, cute (long) play? And Dorian Gray was one of the characters on the TV show, Penny Dreadful, right? The good looking, young guy? Wasn’t there a movie a long time ago? Maybe I don’t really have a handle on either Dorian or Oscar.
Now add Boston Court (me = huge fan) 2006 into the mix. That was the home of the original run of A Picture of Dorian Gray adapted and directed by Michael Michetti. And now we find ourselves at A Noise Within, present day. So we have an iconic character and a prestigious classical playwright as well as a history with the much loved Boston Court and now, the distinguished ANW? Perhaps you should just go grab your ticket now.
Oh, you are still here?
So, you are likely right about the basics of the story. Dorian Gray (Colin Bates) is so taken with the splendor he sees in a portrait painted of himself by Basil Hallward (Armin E. Gamal) that he sells his soul to inhabit that splendor forever. The figure in the portrait grows old while he retains his youth and beauty… and pursues a life of debauchery. While Dorian’s portrait decays, his inner self does too. The people who encounter him are drawn to his outward, seemingly irresistible beauty and are taken down by his inner ugliness. Honestly, A Picture of Dorian Gray is a story of a pretty terrible man, the people who loved him and were subsequently ruined by him, and the disintegration of the man himself in the aftermath.
Hummm… I now feel like I’m not selling this so well. And I want to!
Let’s talk about this production. I enjoyed Michetti’s adaptation, although I don’t have much to compare it to, as I haven’t read the book. But from what I understand, unlike other adaptations, he doesn’t avoid the homosexuality that was clearly present in Wilde’s life and wrote into this character. Dorian had some serious male admirers, as well as female, and it’s all laid out on the ANW stage. The story has been controversial since it was written in 1890 and the controversy is faced head on in this production. There is nudity. Consider this before bringing the kids. There are a student matinee options where the nudity is omitted and suggestive themes are adjusted, for whatever that’s worth.
The show has some style. It’s pretty minimal in it’s production value, yet is visually stunning. The set pieces are just enough (Michael Michetti and James Maloof) and the victorian costumes (Garry Lennon) are beautiful without being distracting. The lighting (Rose Malone) was dramatic and I have no doubt immensely helpful in setting the mood. I enjoyed the production value very much. I was both excited and annoyed by the movement aspect of the show. The set changes involved the whole cast and was beautifully choreographed (John Pennington). I was in! The first scene of the second act was narrated from the book and featured several vignettes expressed in the form of dance. It was strange, long, and didn’t work for me with the show as a whole. Out! Although, my hat is deeply tipped to the very skilled Justin Lawrence Barnes. I couldn’t take my eyes off him. Perfect for a different show.
The cast, as expected from any ANW production was pretty great. The male roles are simply “better”/meatier roles in this show, but the men and women were equally good. It’s a long show (2 hours 40 ish minutes with intermission) and the first act skips along better than the second, but it would be a stretch to say that it drags. Well done again, Mr. MIchetti. Just be ready to adjust your attention span for the length of the show.
This is a theatre enthusiast’s delight. If that’s you, don’t hesitate to reserve your seat and prepare yourself for a rare treat.
A Picture of Dorian Gray
A Noise Within
3300 E. Foothill Blvd, Pasadena.
runs through Nov. 16
tickets: (626) 356-3121 or visit anoisewithin.org (or discount websites)
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