The jokes began Friday night before my friend and I even set foot in the play space. My husband had to bow out of attending due to a prior commitment, and of course, the reason he gave was because he was already “an ideal husband.” As we were standing in line at the ticket window, a man came up and said “I’m here!” And why not? AN IDEAL HUSBAND is one of Oscar Wilde’s comedic treats, but far less known than THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST, both written in 1895.
Oscar Wilde set his piece in “present day”, but for him, that would be London at the end of the 19th century. Director Margo O’Moore saw a comparison between the traditional gender roles of that era and the late 1950s. Therefore, she made the decision to set her version in that decade, but keep the action in London. I can’t say that it worked for me, because I’m a theater purist at heart. I like to see a play set in the era when it was intended to be set. I was confused as to why more people didn’t have accents and why the costumes seemed to bounce around between ‘50s and ‘60s. I suppose the explanation would be that it was set in 1959. However, my head was spinning a bit.
As Moore writes in her notes, “The story of a politician who falls from grace is as resonant today as over a century ago.” AN IDEAL HUSBAND begins at a party at the home of politician Robert Chiltern (Mark Ayers) and his wife, Gertrude (the excellent Mare Mikalic). The major attendees include Lord Goring (Anthony Marsala), who is trying to make something of himself in the eyes of his father (Christopher Applegate), Robert’s sister Mabel (Liz McDonald), Lady Markby (Judy Van Buskirk), and the villain of the play, Mrs. Cheveley (Christine Martuscello). Cheveley is trying to bribe Chiltern to enter a scheme with her. If he does not agree, she will expose an indiscretion from when he was young. He turns to his best friend, Lord Goring, for advice in a beautifully designed Act 2 with many monologues. Many misunderstandings, bribes, and blackmail ensue through the rest of the play, with a few laugh-out-loud moments (specifically from Marsala, McDonald, and Van Buskirk).
I was a little hesitant in Act 1, as I thought Martuscello might come off too sweet in this villainous role. However, she nailed the part, using every evil smile and arch of her brow to expose Mrs. Cheveley’s intentions. Her outfit in Act II was so wicked that I thought it was going to ride off by itself on a broomstick.
So even though your spouse might tell you he’s the “ideal” one, go see the real thing in a sharp production at Playcrafters.
AN IDEAL HUSBAND
by Oscar Wilde
Directed by Margo O’Moore
April 19 – May 5, 2012
Playcrafters of Skippack
2011 Store Road