Monday, September 26, 2011

Who's the Ideal Husband?

"I was wondering why people were hanging around my house the other day," joked a friend when we told him we were going to Taproot Theatre's production of An Ideal Husband. Yeah, well, they would have shown up at our house too, if that were true :-)

The story line, of a husband trying to live up to the impossible ideals of his adoring "perfect" wife, is one of playwright Oscar Wilde's most insightful and compelling. Who hasn't had to admit to past mistakes and imperfections? If you're like me and have had to -fess up more than once or twice, you'll love An Ideal Husband, no question about it!

“To love oneself is the beginning of a lifelong romance.” ~ Oscar Wilde
We arrived to the usual buzz in the little theater on 85th. There's not a bad seat in the house, though it's usually full. We were lucky to move over a few seats when the guy next to us propped his foot up to block our view of a corner of the stage. My polite ideal mate wouldn't ask the man to put his foot down, but we didn't want to miss a thing. I appreciated the media tickets and am delighted to present you with this review:

“An acquaintance that begins with a compliment is sure to develop into a real friendship.” ~ Oscar Wilde

As usual, Taproot does great job of casting. I especially enjoyed the clueless matron, Lady Markby (Pam Nolte), Mabel Chiltern (Anne Kennedy Brady), and Lord Goring (Aaron Lamb). Though Lamb doesn't dazzle in the first bit, he snuck up on us as a convincing rake and ne-er-do-well. Karen Lund's directing continues to showcase her experience and quest for excellence, both with the dramatic material and the theater's space. The actors made full use of the stage, telling us terrible truths about ourselves with wit and humor. How they made us laugh with their characterizations of "beautiful idiots and brilliant lunatics!"

Oscar Wilde's psychological insights into human nature, class, and the culture of his day astonish: he captures his peers' (and our) foibles and efforts at life in conversations filled with hilarity, sarcasm, and irony. Those one-liners kept rolling off the lips with convincing British accents... we perched on the edges of our seats wondering what was coming next. Since we've lived in the UK, the dialogue details jumped out at us with added realism. Sometimes audience chuckles drowned out a line or two - we tried to be good, but the play - and Taproot's portrayal of C19 Victorian life - was too funny to resist a few belly laughs at ourselves.

One of the things I enjoy most about Taproot is its costuming and staging. Since the stage is small, surrounded by people, and visible from three sides, the layout demands uncluttered simplicity and good dramatic support. With a few pieces of furniture, wonderful outfits, and good casting, the play came alive. I've seen Wilde's play a few times, but I can't every remember enjoying it more.

"When the gods want to punish, they answer our prayers." ~ Oscar Wilde

The people sitting next to us were first-timers to Taproot. "We live in the neighborhood," they admitted. "But we've never been here before." The husband was new to Wilde as well, and judging by comments and laughter between the couple, they had a great time. Both promised to return soon. We agree: a thoroughly satisfying and convincing evening out. Don't miss it!

The show runs through October 22. Tickets available here. (My son noticed that "under 25s" tickets are only $10, so why not make it a date?)

If you love drama, would like to support a small local theater, and think it's important to encourage excellence in entertainment, consider a subscription so you can enjoy the whole season. Tickets make great birthday or Christmas gifts, too!

Photo credits: Erik Stuhaug

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