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The Picture of Dorian Gray

nytheatre.com review by Martin Denton
April 3, 2013

The Picture of Dorian Gray

Eric Percival, David Stallings, and Franceso Andolfi in a scene from The Picture of Dorian Gray

In adapting Oscar Wilde's famous novel The Picture of Dorian Gray for the stage, playwright-director Glory Kadigan has made a couple of interesting choices that distinguish the work. First, she has chosen to use Wilde's words throughout: dialogue seems lifted from the page (and feels wittily epigramattic as a result) and narration bridging the scenes is frequent and literate. And second, she has emphasized the love that dared not speak its name in Wilde's own time, making Dorian's homosexual proclivities (and those of other male characters) explicit and clear.

If you don't know the story, there's a detailed summary here (but note: spoiler alert!). A cast of ten actors portray all the characters in the dense tale, with several serving triple-duty in some exceptional ways. Narration is presented by the actors singly and in groups, usually within the confines of one of the many picture frames (three life-size plus many smaller ones) that comprise most of the play's set. And the eponymous painting—which, as you probably know, transforms while the real Dorian stays eternally and beautifully the same—is also portrayed by these supporting characters: the victims of Dorian's indulgences bear the scars of his soul on their visages. It's an intriguing choice that supports the indie theater aesthetic.

Costumes, designed by Rachel Dozier-Ezell, are faithful to the period and fairly lavish in number. Craig Napoliello's set smartly leaves a lot to the audience's imagination. Makeup by Weston and Christopher Leidenfrost (who also provides fight choreography and is an ensemble member) is suitable.

David Stallings and Eric Percival are the play's anchors as Dorian's friends/mentors Basil Hallward (who painted the portrait of the title) and Lord Henry Wotton. Francesco Andolfi plays Dorian; I wanted to see more of a transformation from naif to spoiled man-about-town to degenerate in this characterization. Will Schnurr, Kelly Zekas, and Michael Whitney stand out among the supporting players.