Dorian Gray at the Villa Terrace

Dec. 2, 2016
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Alena Joling as Dorian Gray
Alena Joling as Dorian Gray

Boozy Bard finds a warm studio space this month in the beautiful Villa Terrace Decorative Arts Museum as it stages a new adaptation of Oscar Wilde’s classic The Picture of Dorian Gray. A respectable room in the 1920s residence for the wealthy serves as a suitable setting for Wilde’s story about a wealthy man living a life seemingly without consequences. Boozy Bard’s Jeremy Eineichner has written his own adaptation of Wilde’s original novel--a drama that slinks its way around the stage delivering a satisfying emotional progression for the title character.

Alena Joling has a pristine symmetry about her in the role of Dorian Gray--a handsome, young aristocrat who gradually descends into something of a gentleman’s sociopathic misanthropy.  There’s a cool detachment about her that gradually takes hold in the course of the story. Eineichner has rendered it in the script quite well. Joling masters a smart grasp of the shadowy inner struggles that the story draws out of Dorian.

Thom Cauley plays the painter Basil Howard. Cauley’s passion and compassion lend some nourishment for early scenes in which a young Gray is serving as the subject of a portrait. Nick Firer lends a rich and rugged presence to the stage in the role of Basil’s friend Lord Henry--a civilized philosophical hedonist. In casual conversation Lord Henry, he carves doubts into the mind of Dorian during a moment of artistic fusion and the portrait comes to serve as a dark and mystical reflection for what he is to become. Firer’s got a delightfully detachment about him in the role of a man who has lived as a hedonist for what must have been many, many years half-heartedly chasing some kind of inner demons. There’s an intellectually restless weariness about Firer’s performance that brings a kind of charm to the character’s negligence. 

Dorian is shocked and staggered a bit by Lord Henry’s thoughts until the theater inspires passing in him in the form of an actress named Sibyl. Sarah Caveney is emotionally vibrant in the role of the actress Sibyl. Far from the kind of unapproachable beauty one imagines in Wilde’s original work, Caveney is casually radiant. (I hesitate to use the term "girl next door" but I suppose I just have. How perfectly dreadful of me.) The love synthesizing between Dorian and Sibyl challenges art and things get tragic. It's a pivotal moment and it's handled with enough distance to keep it from bogging down the dramatic momentum of Dorian's inner transformation. 

There are a number of others in the supporting cast who have striking moments in the course of the drama. Niko King glides gracefully through the poised desperation of Lord Henry’s wife Lady Wotton. Andrew Butler is charismatic as the actress’ protective brother. Alec Lachman has a memorably powerful moment as a chemist friend of Dorian’s who he blackmails into doing something ghastly and criminal. 

The show is a smooth glide through what could have ended up being a very convoluted piece of drama in the wrong hands. Eineichner has found a nice balance. Director Amanda Marquardt has managed ensemble dynamics to deliver provocative textures and temperaments in and around a very satisfying central conflict. 

Boozy Bard Productions’ adaptation of The Picture of Dorian Gray runs through Dec. 17 at the Villa Terrace Decorative Arts Museum on 2220 N. Terrace Ave. For ticket reservations, visit Brown Paper Tickets online


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