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Off-Off-Broadway Review

The Picture of Dorian Gray

The Picture of Dorian Gray
There have been many stage, screen, and TV versions of "The Picture of Dorian Gray," Oscar Wilde's novel. In addition to the witty one-liners the scandalous author was famous for, the book's central image of a portrait that ages while its subject remains young has intrigued audiences and adapters alike since the work's 1891 publication. Director-adapter Glory Bowen has some fascinating ideas for giving the material theatrical life in her production for the Planet Connections Theatre Festivity.

Wilde's narration is divided up among the ensemble, who speak it while holding illuminated picture frames in front of their faces. Bowen is aided immeasurably by lighting designer Yuriy Nayer to create a scary atmosphere as the pale, ghostly images seemingly float in the darkness. Jacob Subotnick's sound design adds to the creepy factor with appropriately spooky musical underscoring. In addition, Bowen subtly emphasizes the homoeroticism in Wilde's text, which was hidden in versions of generations past. However, the director tends to repeat her good ideas a tad too much, so that they wear out their welcome. In addition, the actors are directed to repeat key words of the narration more than is necessary, causing annoyance rather than foreboding.

Despite the excesses, Bowen gives us a tight and workable staging of Wilde's moralistic fantasy. Adam Michael Barrie has the handsome features and athletic body to convince as the mesmerizing Dorian, and he effectively displays the character's inner conflict between his sensual appetites and the pangs of his conscience. Walter Brandes, as Lord Henry, skillfully delivers Wilde's razor-sharp observations on the hypocrisy of Victorian society. Eric Percival, who resembles the 1940s movie character actor Herbert Marshall in both face and voice, is especially moving as the painter Basil Hallward. His forbidden attraction for Dorian is deftly conveyed, as is his need to suppress it. Allison Hirschlag has the difficult ingénue role of Sybil Vane, the actor who falls victim to Dorian's charm. She must convince us that this innocent, unworldly girl could attract the sophisticated Gray and then kill herself when he rejects her. Hirschlag pulls off the feat with aplomb, just as Bowen manages—apart from a few lapses—the equally tricky challenge of bringing a great novel to the stage.


Presented by G-Money Productions as part of Planet Connections Theatre Festivity at the Robert Moss Theater, 440 Lafayette St., NYC. June 6–21. Remaining performances: Sat., June 12, and Tue., June 15, 8:30 p.m.; Fri., June 18, and Mon., June 21, 6:30 p.m. (212) 352-3101, (866) 811-411, www.theatermania.com, or www.planetconnectionsfestivity.com.

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