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February 11, 2014 > Theatre Review: New adaptation a Wilde-ly successful debut

Theatre Review: New adaptation a Wilde-ly successful debut

By Julie Grabowski

Mr. Wilde goes to Washington in Scott MunsonÕs new adaptation of ÒAn Ideal HusbandÓ enjoying its world premiere at HaywardÕs Douglas Morrisson Theatre. Despite your open-minded or skeptical stance on dabbling with a beloved writerÕs work, MunsonÕs Americanized version holds fast to Oscar WildeÕs original vision while giving it a modern and relatable pop that is nothing short of impressive and terrifically well done.

The story moves from 1895 London and the politics of parliament amid the titled Victorian upper class, across the pond to 1959 Washington, D.C., and a group of ÒRockefeller Republicans.Ó

Rosalind Cheveley, a woman her schoolmate Laura Chiltern remembers as Òa liar and a tramp,Ó breezes into the political party Laura and her husband are hosting with the express desire to meet Secretary Robert Chiltern. Heralded as the ÒIdeal Husband,Ó a man above reproach, Robert is blasted with blackmail by Mrs. Cheveley, who is armed with knowledge and proof of a past misdeed that will crumble his world, especially his wifeÕs worshipful opinion of him. RobertÕs good friend Tom urges him to stand up to Mrs. Cheveley and tell Laura the truth, and, aware of something amiss but not knowing all the details, Laura also pushes him to not give in. ÒCircumstances should never change who we are,Ó she declares. What is the best course of action when either way you stand to lose?

ÒAn Ideal HusbandÓ examines the danger of power, knowledge, and corruptibility in politics as well as the folly of searching for perfection in others and putting those we love on a pedestal. What do we do when faced with their inevitable weaknesses and errors? ÒThereÕs gotta be something between the altar and the mud,Ó Tom tells Laura. Instead of having ÒidealÓ be the goal, we should instead strive for being real, and believe that truth, honor, and love should always lead the way.

Susan Evans directs a sharp, fluid, and engaging production that works on every level. While Munson alters the language, speech patterns, and cultural references to fit the relocation to America, not an ounce of WildeÕs wit, playfulness, and delicious social eye is sacrificed. MunsonÕs additions meld seamlessly into WildeÕs standing text creating a smooth and natural collaboration.

The cast is excellent and confidently carries the show without a hitch. Teddy Spencer as Congressman Thomas Goring has undeniable allure from beginning to end as the aimless man who declares himself to be Òtoo young to have a purpose.Ó He wears the casual wit and charm of his character like a second skin and is great fun to watch. Cynthia Lagodzinski seems to be channeling Kim Cattrall in her role of Rosalind Cheveley and to very successful effect. Lagodzinski has a sultry and confident bite that creates great presence and makes Mrs. Cheveley so fun to love/hate.

Myers ClarkÕs Roosevelt is the most entertaining butler youÕve ever seen and completely justifies MunsonÕs addition of the character. Developed far beyond announcing guests and serving drinks, he is a Òmoral commentator on the actions of the showÓ according to Munson. Clark is sharp and vivacious; he wisecracks, sings, makes fun of, and is a pure delight.

Daria Hepps is pristine and regal as Òthe perfect womanÓ Laura Chiltern, also bringing humanity and sympathy to LauraÕs high love and standards. Celia Maurice is a little gem as the snobby, condescending Mrs. Markby. Her facial expressions and delivery are priceless.

Craig Souza (Robert Chiltern), Kendall Tieck (Governor Goring), and Brooke Silva (Tammy Chiltern) are well-cast and spot on in their roles. Alicia von Kugelgen (Mrs. Marchmont) and Beebe Reisman (Mrs. Basildon) have one of the great moments in the show performing ÒWhen Autumn Leaves Begin to FallÓ accompanied by Tina Rutsch (Freddy Nanjac) on ukulele. Rutsch is a bright and memorable spark as the French cultural attachˇ and definitely leaves her mark.

The set design by Michael Locher is crisp and sleek, predominately white with a touch of groovy thrown in. The back main wall is papered in a large Ô60s pattern while the house wall is comprised of rotating panels - white for the Chiltern house, colorful geometric print for TomÕs bachelor pad - which serve as doors to other roomsÉ cool. Daisy Neske-Dickerson also makes a great contribution with her injection of color and fashion by way of beautiful costumes.

ÒAn Ideal HusbandÓ shows great bravery, inventiveness, and enthusiasm from Susan Evans, most definitely Scott Munson, and all who contributed to getting it on the stage. The daunting task paid off! Whether a Wilde purist, divergent thinker, or just a theatre goer who loves a good show, this production is for you.

A special post-play discussion will be held after the Saturday, February 22 matinee. Tickets are $29 for adults, $26 for seniors 60 and up, and $21 for students/juniors and TBA members with ID. Discounts are available for KQED members and groups of 10 or more. Call (510) 881-6777 or order online at

An Ideal Husband
Thursday, Feb 6 - Sunday, Mar 2
8 p.m. (Sunday matinees at 2 p.m.)
Saturday, Feb 22: 2 p.m. and 8 p.m.
Douglas Morrisson Theatre
22311 N. Third St., Hayward
(510) 881-6777
Tickets: $21 - $29

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