The Wilde Side

Oscar's wit is perfect in this Ideal Husband

It is said that Mark Twain once sadly remarked to his wife, who had just spewed a string of choice vulgarities at him: "Livy, you know the words but not the melody." Such is also the case with many theater companies that tackle plays by that musician of verbal japery, Oscar Wilde. They say the words without capturing the underlying rhythms.

But in An Ideal Husband, the Great Lakes Theater crew spins Wilde's witticisms into a seamless symphony of laughter. It's mixed with just enough social relevance to give the whole enterprise more heft than you might expect.

At first, it seems that Sir Robert Chiltern is "an ideal husband," a paragon of virtue adored by his wife and all of London. But the snarky Lady Cheveley blackmails him with a letter from his past, indicating that he traded state secrets for filthy lucre. As Chiltern the paragon morphs into paradox, the blackmail seems to be working — until Robert's best friend, the idling dandy Viscount Goring, manages to intercede. Meanwhile, Rob's lovely, feisty sister Mabel is dodging one relentless suitor while pursuing the hard-to-pin-down Goring, cheered on by Goring's dyspeptic father, the Earl of Caversham.

This all happens in the hot-house environment of elegant London society — made up, as Mabel notes, of "beautiful idiots and brilliant lunatics." And this is where Great Lakes earns its "Oscar." Director Sari Ketter and choreographer Helene Peterson emphasize the music from the outset, moving the servants to composer Michael Keck's soundscape with ritualized yet amusing solemnity. In a similar vein, the actors, in large roles and small, find the melody lines of their characters with unerring precision.

Send feedback to [email protected].

Like this story?
SCENE Supporters make it possible to tell the Cleveland stories you won’t find elsewhere.
Become a supporter today.

Christine Howey

Christine Howey has been reviewing theater since 1997, first at Cleveland Free Times and then for other publications including City Pages in Minneapolis, MN and The Plain Dealer. Her blog, Rave and Pan, also features her play reviews. Christine is a former stage actor and director, primarily at Dobama Theatre...
Scroll to read more Arts Stories & Interviews articles

Join Cleveland Scene Newsletters

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.