An Ideal Husband
We have to be aware of a certain irony when the Great Lakes Theatre Festival offers Othello and An Ideal Husband in repertory. Of course, no one suggested Othello was an ideal husband. But the irony brightens the day. In an earlier review, I wrote about the Great Lakes Theatre Festival's production of Othello.
An Ideal Husband opened in England in 1895. This is one of Oscar Wilde's best plays. He wrote a polished, shimmering comedy with a serious underside that gradually becomes the main plot of the story. An Ideal Husband is sometimes described as a "social comedy" or a "comedy of society." Against the background of a perfect marriage, the characters deal with their personal backgrounds and how those personal stories impact their lives and society.
Sir Robert Chiltern (Richard Klautsch) and Lady Gertrude Chiltern (Jodi Dominick) seem to have the perfect marriage and, in fact, live the perfect life. Both actors are exceptionally good in this production. Lady Laura Cheveley (Laura Perrotta) finds her way into their lives via a party in their home. She knows Robert's secret. She threatens to reveal this secret if he doesn't take a stand against an issue that is coming forward in government. If she reveals the secret, he will be destroyed politically and personally. In fact, should this secret be revealed, Robert may lose his wife. Perrotta makes Lady Cheveley sexy, bright and capable of getting her way at any cost. Once again, Perrotta is excellent.
Nayna Ramey (scenic designer) has placed the action on a series of wide steps and ramps. Behind the steps is a stylish swag of satin-like material which hangs from the fly loft to the floor. On the platforms are chairs, tables and vases of flowers. Robert's male staff carries chairs and tables to change the configurations and create different rooms. Their military-like movements become part of the humor of this rich comedy.
Jason Lee Resler (costume designer) brings an elaborate fashion display for both male and female performers. His costumes are historically accurate, visually charming and stage worthy (meaning they work well for the movements of the actors). Although I didn't keep score, I believe Resler doesn't permit an actor to wear the same costume in any two appearances on stage. I suspect the dressers deserve a curtain call for their hard, quick work.
Sari Ketter (director) brings the script to life in a deliberate and fast-paced style. Unfortunately, she needs to spend more of her directing time in the back of the housesimply, to check on the volume and the diction of the actors. As Miss Mabel Chiltern, Sara M. Bruner swallowed too many of the ends of her lines. I had to ask, too often, what she said. Bruner usually does much better at getting her lines to the back of the house.
David Anthony Smith as Viscount Goring, the best friend of Sir Robert Chiltern, is at the top of his acting form. He slows the last words of his lines; this affectation becomes familiar, humorous and never annoying. He seems to get a laugh from almost every line. He can toss off Wilde's witticisms with ease, as if to promise the audience that he has a full script loaded with more funny lines.
This is a smooth, sophisticated production.
The Great Lakes Theater Festival will offer Othello and An Ideal Husband as its Fall Repertory through October 31. For ticket information, telephone 216-241-6000 or visit http://www.greatlakestheater.org/. The shows are playing in the Hanna Theatre, Great lakes Theater Festival, PlayhouseSquare, Cleveland.
The next production offered by the GLTF will be A Christmas Carol, December 3-23, 2010.
The Hanna Theatre
- David Ritchey