Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.
An Ideal Husband
The drama concerns Sir Robert Chiltern (Gregory Wooddell), a rising star in Parliament and a man of unquestioned integrity. Indeed, his wife (Rachel Pickup) refuses to acknowledge that he could ever behave in a less than exemplary manner. Of course, no idol is flawless, as the scheming Mrs. Cheveley (Emily Raymond) knows, and very soon she's threatening to reveal Sir Robert's long-buried act of insider tradingto use the contemporary termto the press and destroy both his career and his comfortable life if he doesn't support her business interests. (Yes, the plot also offers adulterous flirtations, but money and power rather than sex are the primary motivations.)
Since this is Wilde, the list of characters includes a witty, self-absorbed dandy who gets the cleverest epigramsnotably, "To love oneself is the beginning of a lifelong romance." This is Lord Goring (Cameron Folmar), a man who lives for fashion, fine clothes, and studied triviality, and for causing apoplexy in his stodgy, responsible father (David Sabin). He also has a history with Mrs. Cheveley and the admiration of Sir Robert's sister Mabel (Claire Brownell).
Baxter has taken a large cast and molded an ensemble in which each member understands the proper place of elevated language and extravagant posturing. Folmar and Raymond get the major opportunities to show off, as their characters thrive on artificiality, but Wooddell gives a layered performance as a man who thinks he can escape his past, and Pickup ably depicts how Lady Chiltern learns compassion and kindness. Some Shakespeare Theatre favorites do wonders with small roles: Floyd King is Lord Goring's impassive servant, and Nancy Robinette is a dowager who always thinks she's making sense as she dithers on.
Robert Perdziola has again designed luscious costumesin pale colors for the "respectable" ladies, while Mrs. Cheveley wears intense jewel tonesand scenic designer Simon Higlett earns applause for two vastly different settings: the overstuffed Chiltern mansion, complete with massive columns, and Lord Goring's airy home with its light wood shelves and Chinese vases.
Shakespeare Theatre Company