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BWW Review: Theater Project Tackles THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GRAY

BWW Review: Theater Project Tackles THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GRAY

The professional ensemble of Brunswick's Theater Project once again demonstrates its affinity for drama with classic literary origins. Its 2018 production of The Picture of Dorian Gray, adapted by Merlin Holland and John O'Connor, offers a convincing, often compelling account of Oscar Wilde's famous novel.

The 1890 novel, which was deemed "indecent" in its day, nonetheless has enthralled readers for more than 125 years, not the least because of its Gothic overtones, its dark, psychology, and the brilliance of Wilde's language. The Holland-O'Connor stage adaptation captures all of this effectively, nicely streamlining the plot for clarity, and simplifying some of the denser philosophical digressions, while still retaining Wilde's most memorable lines. Wilde's aphoristic wit shines through the piece, dazzling the listener with one pithy paradox after the next.

Reducing the cast of characters to five actors who double in multiple roles, the production uses the rather popular present-day trend of ignoring the gender specificity of some of these roles. Al Miller directs serviceably, keeping the action flowing smoothly and focusing on the narrative line. Scenic Consultant Nina Roth-Wells provides attractive décor - a series of period props and a raised platform upstage to indicate the attic of Gray's home. Her design is dominated by a series of suspended picture frames , in one of which is projected the changing portrait of the protagonist. Jessie Eastman Perry's basic but evocative costumes, JP Gagnon's appropriately eerie lighting, and Jennifer Roe's effective sound design, which includes melodramatic sound effects and numerous classical music excerpts, some of which are alluded to in the script, complete the illusion.

The acting ensemble gives credible, committed performances, though the consistency and haut Anglais style of the piece is somewhat marred by the inconsistency of the accents. Thomas Ian Campbell looks the part of the beautiful youth and conveys the hauteur of Dorian Gray and a good measure of his crumbling psyche, though one might wish for more obvious mercurial behavior as Gray descends into madness. Andrew Elijah Edwards turns in a number of heartfelt performances, most notably as the artist in love with Gray, Basil Hallward, the intense, vengeful sailor James Vane, and a comic turn as the mediocre actor, Mr. Isaacs. Tom Handel, as the pivotal Lord Henry Wotton (in addition to two smaller cameos), gives the most rounded performance of all. Lord Henry is Wilde's alter ego, endowed with the most incisive dialogue, jaded, cynical, provocatively amoral and delightfully charming. Handel captures all of this with impeccable timing, as well as a firm command of the dialect and style.

Catherine Buxton and Anna Mikuskova round out the cast with Buxton demonstrating her versatility in seven parts - her best work as Alan Campbell - while Mikuskova conveys the waif-life purity and romantic nature of Gray's two doomed female conquests.

The Theater Project is to be commended for continuing its mission in these professional productions of bringing great literature to the stage and making it live for the current generation.

Photo courtesy The Theater Project, Molly Haley, photographer

The Picture of Dorian Gray runs from February 8-18, 2018 at The Theater Project, 14 School Street, Brunswick, ME 207-729-8584

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