Third StreetTheatre Series

An Ideal Husband

Dates 8 - 24 February 2007, 8pm Venue Presentation House Theatre

Reviewer John Jane

Oscar Wilde's piece of theatrical satire is set in late-nineteenth-century London, at a time when the British upper-crust had little else to do but spend its time socializing. “Beautiful idiots and brilliant lunatics," is how Mabel Chiltern, one the play’s characters describes these superficial socialites.

The “ideal husband” is respected politician, Sir Robert Chiltern, although he is not the central character. That distinction belongs jointly to the urbane Lord Arthur Goring and the devious Mrs Cheveley, whose first name is never discovered.

Director Susan Astley offers up a standard, cookie-cutter version of Wilde’s play. Much of the dialogue in this production is intentionally affected, with actors doing their best with a pompous Windsor accent. Only Ian Attewell in the title role was allowed to use his (natural) standard British accent. The visibility of cast members in the role of servants moving props and rearranging sets between acts showed an deft directorial touch.

Costume designer, Naomi Lazarus’ gowns were stunning and exquisitely detailed, although they seemed closer to the Edwardian than the Victorian in style.

Of the all the characters, Lord Goring would seem to require the most perspicacity. For those acquainted with Wilde’s flamboyant personality, the infusion of his eccentric nature into the Lord Goring character is obvious. Kirk Smith in this central role was outstanding.

Christina Schild was coolly elegant as the worldly Mrs Cheveley. She was dangerously seductive while attempting to blackmail both Chiltern and Goring. For me, her performance was alone worth the ticket price.

Proving just how prescient Wilde was, this cleverly plotted story might just as easily been written for our own times. Who would disagree that its overall themes of decadence, betrayal, and political impropriety are as prevalent today as they were a hundred years ago?

© 2007 John Jane