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"Husband" Weds Politics and Scandal
 Colony Studio Theatre gives Oscar Wilde satire a lighthearted touch.
Stage Review by Jana J. Monji, Special to the Los Angeles Times

When reflecting years later on his play "An Ideal Husband," Oscar Wilde commented, "Some of its passages seem prophetic of tragedies to come." He was referring to his own downfall due to "gross indecencies" and not to any recent political scandal. Yet it’s hard to hear such lines as "A man who can’t talk morality twice a week to a large, popular, immoral audience is quite over as a serious politician" without thinking of current affairs.

More than 100 years after "An Ideal Husband" debuted in London, although dated in its attitude toward women, it remains a timely skewering of political life.

In this sparkling production of "An Ideal Husband," at the Colony Studio Theatre, the subtext of Wilde’s own life is glossed over in favor of a lighthearted approach. The witticisms gleam with bright viciousness, undarkened by the irony of true tragedy.

Todd Nielsen as the foppish Lord Goring, Wilde’s alter ego, doesn’t physically resemble Wilde at all, but makes a delectably languid dandy. He’s finicky but not swishy as "the idlest man in London." His main achievements in life are changing his clothes at least five times a day and being the best friend of a prominent, highly respectable politician, Sir Robert Chiltern (Chip Heller).

The arrival of the beautiful, scheming Mrs. Cheveley (played with deliciously female ferocity by Laura Wernette), who possesses a certain letter, threatens Sir Robert’s career and his marriage to the morally faultless Lady Chiltern (Melissa Hanson). Goring becomes the unlikely but highly likeable hero.

While director Nick DeGruccio ignored possible commentary on Wilde’s own life, he has delicately handled the troublesome pronouncements against women.

Hanson’s Lady Chiltern has a certain dimness about the gray areas of life. This is balanced by the complete lack of serious purpose in Nielsen’s Goring — he may be earnest, but not serious. She is dull, even duller than her husband, yet this makes her verbatim repetition of Goring’s "Women are not meant to judge us, but to forgive us" speech more tolerable.

Using musical interludes to cover scene changes (sung sweetly by Alison Shanks and Maura Knowles as Lady Basildon and Mrs. Marchmont, respectively) is a nice touch.

Toni Sawyer is delightfully boorish as the matronly Lady Markby, particularly in her long-winded second-act natterings that nastily underscore the vapidness of the fashionable elite. Bringing in the male perspective is Charles Howerton’s properly stolid and befuddled Earl of Caversham.


Copyright Los Angeles Times 
Reprinted with Permission
An Ideal Husband at the Colony Theatre