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Washington DC by Susan Berlin

An Ideal Husband

An Ideal Husband
Emily Raymond and Cameron Folmar
Who would have thought that a play written more than a century ago by Oscar Wilde would pick up on the very modern theme of financial impropriety? Director Keith Baxter has created a sparkling production of Wilde's 1895 play An Ideal Husband for Washington's Shakespeare Theatre Company; every surface glitters and every performance shines.

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 trading—to use the contemporary term—to 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 epigrams—notably, "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 costumes—in pale colors for the "respectable" ladies, while Mrs. Cheveley wears intense jewel tones—and 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
An Ideal Husband March 8th – April 16th
By Oscar Wilde
Sir Robert Chiltern: Gregory Wooddell
Lady Chiltern, his wife: Rachel Pickup
Miss Mabel Chiltern, his sister: Claire Brownell
Mason, his butler: Warren Katz
The Earl of Caversham, K.G.: David Sabin
Lord Goring, his son: Cameron Folmar
Phipps, Lord Goring's servant: Floyd King
Mrs. Cheveley: Emily Raymond
Lady Markby: Nancy Robinette
Countess of Basildon: Tessa Klein
Mrs. Marchmont: Lise Bruneau
Duchess of Maryborough: Anne Stone
Prinz Friedrich von Glücksburg: Logan DalBello
Vicomte de Nanjac: Nick Dillenburg
Mr. Montford: Kevin Bergen
Guests, Footmen, Servants: Travis Blumer, Louis Cupp, Logan DalBello, Caitlin Diana Doyle, Greg Gallagher, Emily Joshi-Powell, Martha Karl, John William Schiffbauer. Paul Stuart
Directed by Keith Baxter
Harman Center for the Arts, Sidney Harman Hall
610 F St. N.W.
Washington, DC
Ticket Information: 202-547-1122 or 877-487-8849 or www.shakespearetheatre.org.


Photo: Scott Suchman


-- Susan Berlin


Also see the Current Theatre Season Calendar for D.C.



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