Wilde on Wilde
Starring Rick Stanley
Mad Cow Theater, Orlando, FL
Carl F Gauze
There are two sides to being a world class smarty pants like Oscar Wilde. When everything’s going your way, it’s easy being a supercilious ass, making profound pronunciations about wallpaper and the state of art criticism in Ancient Greece. But when you’re down on your luck and doing a spell in the old Crossbar Hilton, you really better have something profound to say, because not many people will be paying attention. This Oscar Wilde does both.
Complied from letters and writings, this two act, one man play abstracts Wilde’s career. Is he the witty bon vivant, master of the sound bite and the first person who was famous mostly for being famous? Or is he the tortured soul now living out the Byronic fantasy of a great personal tragedy that isn’t nearly as much fun as he first thought it would be? The first act explores the smug poseur Wilde, in a slightly disjoint commentary on his American tour, interior decoration, and the perilous state of truth and beauty. Set on the lecture stage in Chicago, one is not quite sure if Wilde is a genius or a fool, and the possibility that he is both crosses one’s mind more than once.
In the second act, Wilde reads a letter he wrote from jail to his ex-lover, Lord Alfred Douglas. This abandoned Wilde, reduced to self recrimination and fulminating against the injustice of his position, is the more compelling character. Stanley gives the second Wilde fire and sympathy, a man defeated not just by hubris but by a wanton pursuit of pleasure and just plain bad judgment. There are good times and there are bad times, and while our dear Oscar prefers the good, he’s much more interesting during the bad.