Theatre Mirror Reviews - "An Ideal Husband"

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"What Happened in Boston, Willie"

entire contents copyright 2004 by Tony Annicone

"An Ideal Husband"

Reviewed by Tony Annicone

The University of Rhode Island's final show of the season is Oscar Wilde's "An Ideal Husband". Written and set in 1895, London, this show is a comedy of manners, a mystery and a love story all in one. It explores romance, marital relations, friendship and political intrigue. Sir Robert Chiltern, a popular Government minister, seemingly has the perfect life: a successful job and a beautiful, devoted wife. But his impeccable reputation and loving marriage are both threatened when femme fatale, Mrs. Cheveley shows up at their dinner party with evidence of an immoral behavior in Robert's past concerning the Suez Canal. As he struggles with his fear of losing his marriage and his morals over a bogus Argentine canal scheme concocted by Chevely, Robert learns his best friend, Lord Goring, an idle and irreverent bachelor, had an affair with this evil woman years before. Robert's wife Gertrude finds out she doesn't have an ideal husband but learns that one's love and trust currently will win the day over past mistakes. The play contains a modern day look at Cheveley's blackmail and similarities to the insider trading scandal by Robert passing on government secret for money. Director Bryna Wortman takes the audience into this 19th century play and shows them how the behavior of the past relates to current day society while her talented 16 member cast entertain you along the way.

Bryna delves into the characters and what makes them tick. She makes sure the femme fatale is dressed in loud colors so you know she sticks out from the society ladies who are dressed in sedate colors. Bryna also casts the best performers for their roles and it shows in their presentation to the audience. She surrounds herself with topnotch technical people, too. The gorgeous period costumes by Marilyn Salvatore are breathtaking as are the three different sets by Cheryl deWardener which fly in. (The opening set is a splendid fleur-de-leys royal blue drawing room and the library set of Goring is a dark green.) The lighting by Christian Wittwer and sound by Peter Nabut help set the mood. Kudos to the stage manager and crew for keeping things running smoothly.

Senior Sean McConaghy plays Sir Robert who is blackmailed by the evil, Mrs Chevely played by senior, Elizabeth Gotauco. Sean does an excellent job as this powerful, British politician. He conveys the worry and the toll his past have taken on him and handles all his scenes with ease. Elizabeth, a beautiful red head, oozes the smarminess of this horrible creature perfectly. She captures the essence of the character and makes the audience hate her despicable behavior. Melissa Banks does a great job as Gertrude, the young wife who puts her husband on a pedestal but finally realizes that no marriage is perfect. She plays the innocence of the character wonderfully. Trevor Campbell is dynamite as the carefree, bohemian Lord Goring. He handles the serious and comic scenes with ease. Trevor has some of the funniest lines in the play and delivers perfectly. Marcus Stacy is a hoot as his domineering, father, Earl Caversham. He admonishes his son all the time and has many comic lines, too. Courtney Edge plays Mabel Chiltern, the girl who finally captures the heart of Lord Goring. She is constantly being proposed to by another but it is Arthur who she really wants. Courtney does a wonderful job with her witty lines and has great chemistry with Trevor in the kissing scenes.

Some other lively cast members include Erin Olson as Lady Markby who is an older woman with some clever insights about her boring husband, Dan DaCunha as Phipps, Goring's butler who has some great oneliners as this drool servant, Joe Short as the skirt chasing Vicomte de Nanjac and William Brainerd as the long suffering butler, Mason who gets stuck serving tea and waiting on everyone all night long. The whole cast does a wonderful job on this 19th century show.

So for a look at how the more things change, the more they remain the same, be sure to catch "An Ideal Husband", a topnotch college show at URI.

"An Ideal Husband" ( 22 April - 1 May)
Will Theatre, Upper College Road, kingston R I
1 (401) 874-5843

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide