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IU Theatre: An Ideal Husband

“An Ideal Husband” by Oscar Wilde is the current offering at IU’s Ruth N. Halls Theatre. The sets by Seamus Bourne are creatively designed and varied. Erica Gries’s costuming is beautifully done and executed. Laura Kramer’s original music with Liz Replogle’s sound design add just the right thematic touches. Fontaine Syers’ direction is clear, crisp and stylish.

Wilde’s play is an amalgam, it’s a comedy of manners, a social comedy and a melodrama. There are the manners of London social scene of the season with its apparently endless list of emptily mannered dinners, parties, teas, and other events. There’s the social comedy of the appropriate roles for men and women in and out of marriage. And then there’s a melodramatic account of insider trading, blackmail and politics. Sometimes the elements are dramatically separate, sometimes they’re neatly combined, but we don’t come to “An Ideal Husbnd” for its social message nor for its dramatic side, we come for Oscar Wilde’s witty language and the comic elements do predominate.

The characters of “An Ideal Husband” are mostly cardboard figures and director Fontaine Syer handles them with just right touch to let their surfaces predominate while depths do occasionally appear. Mathew Buffalo was the feckless, but charmingly amusing Lord Goring. Taylor St. John was a pleasure as his far from amused father. Justine Salata was the bubbly Mabel Chiltern, the girl that’s won Lord Goring’s heart. Eric Young and Sarah Fischer were Lord and Lady Chiltern. She was the too adoring wife. He was the prig with a past. Abby Roward was the charming villainess, Mrs. Chevely. Sarah McCarroll, was the delightfully clueless society matron Mrs. Markby.

The IU production moves briskly but with never a sense that it’s pushing the pace. Wilde’s lines and some of the plot twists take time to absorb. At one point Lord Goring’s father asks him if he understands all of his witty paradoxes and Lord Goring say, that he does, but only when he listens carefully. Diction, in part at least credited to coach Nancy Lipschulz, is at premium in this production.

Oscar Wilde’s “An Ideal Husband” continues with evening performances in the Ruth N. Halls Theatre through Friday. On Saturday there is a two o’clock matinee and an evening performance.

George Walker

After completing an M.A.T. degree in English at Indiana University, George Walker began announcing for WFIU in 1967. Along with regularly hosting classical music shows, he interviews artists and reviews plays and operas.

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