Off Broadway (and sometimes Broadway) Reviews and Information.

Monday, August 13, 2012

The Picture of Dorian Gray

The premise of The Picture of Dorian Gray is well known to most people, therefore questions arise: can it be told in a fresh way and is it worth seeing something that is so familiar?  Sonnet Repertory Theatre’s new production answers both questions strongly in the affirmative.  This engrossing new adaptation of The Picture of Dorian Gray is by Michael Raver.  It swiftly brings the audience into the action, and then targets key moments, illustrating the tale without burdening the story with every single detail from the book.

Front- Ned Noyes, Sam Underwood, Roger Clark, Rear - William Connell
It helps that Mr. Raver and director Quin Gordon have an excellent cast to work with.  Sam Underwood gives the early Dorian a layer of innocence, even as he is fully aware of his own beauty and sexuality.  From first to last, Mr. Underwood gives Dorian’s actions a layer of insensitivity, rather than cruelty – more egotist than sociopath.

Dorian's insensitivity is justified by the pronouncements of Lord Henry, wonderfully played by Roger Clark.  Lord Henry speaks as if he is a professor of hedonism, and he has found a rapt pupil in Dorian Gray.  Mr. Clark’s Lord Henry slips easily between different motivations in “educating” young Dorian.   At various moments you can read his emotions in his eyes; adoration for beauty in general, desire to relive his own youth through Dorian, the joy of being a fount of knowledge and experience, as well as the occasional undercurrent of lust, albeit quickly squelched.

It is the attraction by both Lord Henry and the painter Basil Hallward (well played by Ned Noyes) that defines the attractiveness of Dorian Gray.  To witness the way these men gaze upon Dorian is to understand the mesmeric beauty Dorian possesses.

Hanley Smith in one of many roles
The rest of the cast, all the other men and women, are played by William Connell and Hanley Smith.  Mr. Connell brings to life many different characters very well; the inebriated foppish husband, late in the show, is quite funny and touching.  Ms. Smith plays three women, with more depth than expected.  All three women are infatuated with Dorian at different points in his life, and Ms. Smith brings a unique view to each of them.  Ms. Smith also plays the piano, providing musical punctuation to the action.

Finally, Sydney Shepherd performs a unique function in the company.  She plays the cello in accompaniment, but – more importantly – she functions as a visual Foley artist.   She provides sound effects for the largely prop free show.  It provides a perfect base of expectations about the props, because the actual picture in this Picture of Dorian Gray is never seen.  The characters react to the image, viewing the picture as if it is hung in front of the audience.  It is a cleaver idea, successfully executed.

Director Quin Gordon has delivered a fascinating take on The Picture of Dorian Gray, one that expands story by showing more emotion than just “the picture ages and the man doesn’t” tale we all know.
Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray
August 9 – 19 @ The Studio Theatre at the Pershing Square Signature Center
Playwright (adaptation): Michael Raver
Director: Quin Gordon
Cast: Roger Clark, William Connell, Ned Noyes, Sydney Shephard, Hanley Smith and Sam Underwood

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