Review by Tulis McCall
25 Jan 2010
There are times when people say that a show was so dull that the event was like watching paint dry. This is not always fair to paint, one of whose jobs is to dry.
Which brings us to the production of The Picture of Dorian Gray. It is a valiant effort that fails mightily.
This is a story of passions. An artist , Basil Hallward (Leeif Huckman) meets a young man, Dorian Gray (Wil Petre) who poses for him and changes his life. His artwork is transformed by the portrait and he is infatuated with his new subject. When Dorian meets Henry Wotton (Vayu O’Donnell) and becomes student to Wotton’s view that life is only worth the beauty and sensual fulfillment a person can consume, he looks at his portrait as a reminder of what he will never have again and offers his soul in exchange for its eternal properties. His words are heard and the exchange is made.
This is a blatant attack on the social structure of England. Dorian’s new found guarantee of youth gives him the tools he needs to live a dark life in the back alleys of London and keep his own social image in the upper circles. He falls in love with an actor, Sybil Vane (Christine Broccolini) in a tiny theatre, but when she tries to give up acting for him, her image as a magician is shattered. Having no further use for her, Dorian kills her. When his long time supporter, Basil, questions his life style (which has been going on for 18 years) Dorian dispatches him as well. It is a tale of recklessness and disregard for humanity – traits exhibited by the Haves then and now.
Instead of playing on this theme, this production tones the tale down to a stultifying tempo. There is barely a heartbeat here. One problem is the text that is neither engaging nor well constructed. Another is the casting. Mr. Petre is not up to the task of tackling a man on a mission of insane proportions who makes the journey last over 18 years. Many of the rest of the actors appeared uncertain both of lines and blocking, and Mr. Wotton should be given a lesson on how to use a walking stick. Ms. Broccolini rises above the fray for most of her time onstage, but there is not much of it. The staging is awkward, with the exception of the use of silhouettes, and takes place inside a boxing ring – why? As the characters surrounding Gray age, they apply hair graying liquid and grayish makeup. While they do this onstage with a modicum of fuss, a good shake sends the makeup flying. Not only is it distracting, it smacks of amateur theatre values. It would have been smarter to use older actors.
The result is an evening where everyone tries very hard but the air still escapes the theatre, along with this most fascinating story.
One bright spot was the producing end of this show. The house was packed with people and the program with ads. Producer Adam Blanshay is an enthusiastic theatre supporter. There are never enough of those. Better luck next time.