Oscar E Moore

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The Picture of Dorian Gray – new adaptation Off Broadway

January 26th, 2010 by Oscar E Moore

Vayu ODonnell, Will Petre, Leif Huckman

Vayu O'Donnell, Will Petre, Leif Huckman

Be wary of two act plays that are performed without an intermission.  There is a reason.  The Picture of Dorian Gray, a dismal and dull dramatization based on the classic Gothic horror novel by Oscar Wilde which has just opened at the Kirk Theatre at Theatre Row as adapted by Daniel Mitura has no escape clause, so to speak.  So you are stuck in your seat until the bitter end.

The production, directed by Henning Hegland, is languid and lackluster with a superimposed style that has the six actor ensemble on stage at all times, moving in slow motion – mostly in silhouette with creepy music separating the sixteen scenes, taking place “nominally” in 19th century Britain but looking very much like some trendy clothing boutique in Soho – where various male outfits are hanging on the walls of the theatre stage left and right just waiting for the actors to change into for the passage of 18 years between Act I and II.  With a bit of white powder rubbed through their hair to age them.

The point being made that what Wilde wrote about then is just as true today.  Physical beauty must come first.  Eternal youth is the answer.  Don’t squander youth.  Live.

And so the handsome Dorian (Wil Petre) who has had his portrait painted by Basil (Leif Huckman) begins to follow the advice of Lord Henry Wotton (Vayu O’Donnell) who is the voice of Oscar Wilde – espousing his wit and witticisms – criticizing society and the foibles of its populace, leading Dorian down the path of self indulgence.  Dorian falls in love with actress Sybil Vane (Christina Broccolini) and takes Basil and Henry to see her perform – badly (since she found love with Dorian she lost her ability to act).  This role was played by Angela Lansbury in the 1945 film version.  Ms. Lansbury is still going strong.  And so it goes until Dorian somehow wills the portrait to age while he forever keeps youthful, ruining lives along the way.  The brother of Sybil, James (Jade Rothman) threatens Dorian and a friend, Alan Campbell (Kaolin Bass) is enlisted to dispose of the body in the closet that Dorian has murdered.

All the actors are rather stiff and have no human connection whatsoever.  There is little passion and less wit.  The dialogue supplied by Mr. Mitura sounds unconvincing and unnatural coming from these contemporary actors.  Coming out by rote and not out of character.

When they go to see Sybil in Romeo and Juliet, Henry (whose amusement with himself becomes wearing) states that he loves acting – which gets the best laugh of the otherwise somber evening and that Miss Vane (what an ironic name) is awful – explaining that actors take the first act to warm up.  The actors in The Picture of Dorian Gray unfortunately remained tepid throughout.  

Through February 6th.  Tickets $18.00   www.DorianGrayPlay.com

Photo:  Ofer Zimdni

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