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January 28, 2014 > An Ideal Husband by Oscar Wilde

An Ideal Husband by Oscar Wilde

Submitted By Bob Miller

The Douglas Morrisson Theatre continues its 2013-2014 season with a world premiere adaptation of Oscar WildeÕs ÒAn Ideal Husband.Ó Directed by the Douglas Morrisson TheatreÕs Artistic Director Susan E. Evans, Bay Area playwright Scott MunsonÕs sparkling new adaptation of the 118 year old play in a modern setting features an ensemble of local performers: Myers Clark as Roosevelt, Teddy Spencer as Thomas Goring, Daria Hepps as Laura Chiltern, Craig Souza as Robert Chiltern, Cynthia Lagodzinski as Rosalind Cheveley, Brooke Silva as Tammy Chiltern, Kendall Tieck as Governor Goring, Celia Maurice as Mrs. Markby, Alicia von Kugelgen as Mrs. Marchmont, Beebe Reisman as Mrs. Basildon and Tina Rutsch as Ambassador Nanjac.

ÒAn Ideal HusbandÓ previews on February 6, opens February 7, and runs through March 2. The Saturday matinee on February 22nd will be followed by a talkback session with the director, playwright adaptor and cast. The cast includes: Myers Clark, Daria Hepps, Cynthia Lagodzinski, Celia Maurice, Beebe Reisman, Tina Rutsch, Brooke Silva, Craig Souza, Teddy Spencer, Kendall Tieck and Alicia von Kugelgen.

In Oscar WildeÕs brilliantly witty comedy, fate catches up to politician Robert Chiltern when a mysterious woman produces a letter revealing a past misdeed. Is this a public scandal or private shame? One of the more serious of WildeÕs social comedies, ÒAn Ideal HusbandÓ focuses on the often corrupt underpinnings of wealth and power, how information and knowledge in politics hold sway, and how public and personal morality can collide. ÒAn Ideal HusbandÓ also takes a good-natured poke at the institution of marriage, asking us if it is it truly possible to try to have an ÒidealÓ marriage. In the end, WildeÕs message is surprisingly benign: only love really matters, only love will lead to happiness.

WildeÕs story clearly mirrors certain scandals in contemporary politics. When Artistic Director Susan E. Evans and San Jose-based playwright Scott Munson began discussions last year, Evans expressed her interest in Americanizing and updating ÒAn Ideal Husband.Ó Asked why he chose 1959, Washington, D.C., to reset the play, Munson responded: ÒThe original is set in London at the turn of the century, the height of the golden age of the British Empire, the end of one era and the beginning of another. There was a certain complacency about being the greatest nation in the world and feeling that oneÕs decisions would impact history in the grandest possible way. So everyone is very unselfconscious about being the ÒrulersÓ rather than the ruled. I wondered what was the American equivalent of all that. It seemed that Washington D.C., at the end of the 50s, before Vietnam, the Bay of Pigs, the political ferment of the next decade, might also be seen as the high water mark of confident American power and influence. As Washington is the nerve center of American political life that was a fairly easy choice.Ó

MunsonÕs adaptation retains almost all of the jokes and keeps the storyline largely intact from WildeÕs original. Speeches are shorter in MunsonÕs version, conforming more to punchier and brusquer American rhythms. WildeÕs characters are quite recognizable in their American personae, with a notable exception. The one brand new character is Roosevelt, the butler at the Chiltern house. When Munson envisioned Washington of 1959, it seemed almost a certainty that the ChilternÕs butler would be African-American, and it became clear to him that there would be an element of racial tension and commentary outside WildeÕs own universe of master-servant relations. Once the idea for Roosevelt popped in his head, it seemed impossible to Munson that the butler would only be a silent character who made cocktails and collected coats. ÒHe almost immediately announced to me that he wanted to be a moral commentator on the actions of the show. The Oscar Wilde that was standing at my shoulder totally agreed, so I just tried to follow along and make it happen as best as I could.Ó

An Ideal Husband
Thursday, Feb 6 Ð Sunday, March 2
Thursday, Feb 6 (preview) and February 27 at 8 p.m.
Fridays and Saturdays: 8 p.m.
Saturday Feb 22 at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m.
Sundays at 2 p.m.
Douglas Morrisson Theatre
22311 N. Third Street, Hayward
(510) 881-6777

Tickets: $10 (preview) and $29/adults
Discounts available for seniors, students, TBA, KQED members, and groups (10+)

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