Review: A PICTURE OF DORIAN GRAY Captures a Chilling Lifetime of Decay

THE ALLURE OF THUG LIFE to Play The Hollywood Fringe Festival This June
Colin Bates and Frederick Stuart

They say a picture paints a thousand words. In director Michael Michetti's compelling stage adaptation of Oscar Wilde's A PICTURE OF DORIAN GRAY, it does more than that. It captures a lifetime.

The picture in question is a portrait of the handsome title character who becomes so seduced by his own youth and beauty he is willing to sell his soul to escape growing old. With no consequences for his behavior, Dorian turns to a life of lechery and self-indulgence. By the time he acknowledges the damage it has done to his soul, it is too late to turn back the clock.

Michetti first directed DORIAN GRAY at Boston Court Pasadena in 2006 and he revisits it here at A Noise Within in a new configuration and with a mostly new cast. Colin Bates takes on the role of Dorian in a daring performance that grabs you from his first entrance and never lets you look away. He's boyish and wonderfully sweet before Lord Henry Wotton (Frederick Stuart, marvelously in his element) gets a hold of him, and he is dangerously unpredictable as his character evolves.

One of the advantages of casting an actor with Bates' exceptional dance background--he was the first American to play Billy Elliot in London's West End and counts several ballet companies among his training--is that he deals with the physicality of the role in a much more muscular, tactile manner. It affects everything he does, from how he owns the stage unclothed, to how intensely he interacts with the men and women around him, to the way he performs John Pennington's provocative blend of modern dance/combat choreography in an extended sequence that opens Act II.

THE ALLURE OF THUG LIFE to Play The Hollywood Fringe Festival This June
L-R: Frederick Stuart, Abe Martell, Tania Verafield, Colin Bates and Daniel Lench

At this point in the story, the production morphs from the traditional play format to one in which passages of Wilde's text are narrated by ensemble member Daniel Lench, while Bates and two sensual dancers (Tania Verafield and Abe Martell) cover in movement an 18-year stretch of Dorian's wickedness.

Concurrently, three male characters--Wotton, Basil Hallward (Amin El Gamal) and James Vane (José Angel Donado)--sit at makeup tables and transform their appearance with tubes of greasepaint and toothbrushes of silver grey hair color. Time stops for no one and, when the story picks up again in real time, it feels as though a circle has been completed.

The production vividly depicts the dichotomy found in Victorian morality, both its hypocritical displays of propriety and its agenda to suppress homoerotic behavior. El Gamal, as the artist whose brush strokes betray his attraction to his muse, comes up against this very issue. Should he be found out, it would surely be his ruin. But to be unable to express his feelings is its own kind of hell. The role moves at a different pace than the rest of the characters and El Gamal handles the delicate territory by remaining quietly open and vulnerable. There is great sensitivity in his performance and it all starts in his eyes. It is his best work to date--all the more impressive because it isn't a flashy role. Its success rests on the actor's ability to handle subtlety. The supporting cast is also strong throughout.

THE ALLURE OF THUG LIFE to Play The Hollywood Fringe Festival This June
L-R: Colin Bates, Amin El Gamal, and Frederick Stuart

Nothing foreshadows sadness and tragedy more than the plaintive sound of a cello and Robert Oriol's elegant strings-based sound design seeps in and out of the shadows with haunting finesse. Rose Malone's lighting is dramatic in the way it both exposes the characters and fills the space with the weight of their choices. There are times you can cut the air with a knife, so ingrained is it with feel of damp back streets and drying decay.

Michetti and James Maloof's scenic design uses a less-is-more approach which adds to the play's psychological intrigue. When you are asked to imagine the details, rather than have them all spelled out neatly in a row, what your mind sees becomes even more powerful. Garry Lennon's costumes add to the timeless quality of the story.

Like most cautionary tales, A PICTURE OF DORIAN GRAY's warning comes too late for its young protagonist but makes a bull's eye hit to the audience's psyche with chilling intensity. Wilde's psychological masterpiece, and its moral dilemma, are well-served in this striking production.

September 23 - November 16, 2018
A Noise Within
3352 E Foothill Blvd, Pasadena, CA 91107

Photo credit: Craig Schwartz

THE ALLURE OF THUG LIFE to Play The Hollywood Fringe Festival This June
Colin Bates as Dorian Gray
THE ALLURE OF THUG LIFE to Play The Hollywood Fringe Festival This June
Tania Verafield, Abe Martell, and Colin Bates
THE ALLURE OF THUG LIFE to Play The Hollywood Fringe Festival This June
Frederick Stuart and Colin Bates


THE DECADE FROM HELL... Comes to the Gibney Center

Gibney, the New York City based dance and social justice organization, presents the world premiere of The Decade from Hell…, with unique experiences at each performance of the three-night run. The work is both a devised movement theater work and a live-studio audience recording, with a film and album produced from the performances.

East West Players Extends ON THIS SIDE OF THE WORLD

Snehal Desai, Producing Artistic Director of East West Players (EWP) the nation’s longest-running Asian American theater and the largest producer of Asian American theatrical works, has announced the extension of the world premiere musical On This Side of the World.

PEACE ON YOUR WINGS Returns to the Aratani Theatre in Little Tokyo in August

Honolulu youth theater company Ohana Arts and the Japanese American Cultural & Community Center (JACCC) will premiere the revival production of Ohana Arts’ signature musical Peace On Your Wings on August 5-6 at the Aratani Theatre in Little Tokyo, downtown L.A., the epicenter of Japanese and Japanese American performing arts.

SICK, Recounting 1973 Struggle To Declassify Homosexuality As A Mental Illness, Premieres At 2023 Hollywood Fringe Festival

The new docu-dramedy SICK, premiering June 9th at the 2023 Hollywood Fringe Festival, tells the story of the early 1970s struggle to remove homosexuality from the American Psychiatric Association's Manual of Mental Disorders.

From This Author - Ellen Dostal

Ellen Dostal is currently the Senior Editor for BroadwayWorld/Los Angeles and a member of the prestigious Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle. She has covered the performing arts community, jazz, and cla... (read more about this author)


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