Monday, January 21, 2019

The Picture of Dorian Gray--Experience Theatre Project—Beaverton, OR


        The Nature of Evil

    This classic thriller is by Oscar Wilde, adapted for the stage and directed by Alisa Stewart.  It is playing at the Masonic Temple in Beaverton, 4690 SW Watson Ave., through February 10th.  It is “an immersive live theater experience,” which means that a limited number of people are in the same space as the actors onstage.  For more information, go to their site at www.experiencetheatreproject.org

    Perhaps Evil, like Beauty, is in the Eye of the Beholder, but when you combine the two, the results can be deadly!  In the Biblical sense, God and Satan are the representatives of Good and Evil.  On Earth, most of us would agree that Hitler was, perhaps, the best example of pure evil.  But in writers’ imaginations, it is more complicated.  Faust made a pact with the devil for power and wealth; R.L. Stevenson had his Dr. Jekyll separate good from evil, in the guise of Mr. Hyde; and Wilde has his youthful and beautiful, Dorian Gray.

    It seems that the youthful, handsome and innocent, Dorian Gray (Katherine Grant-Suttie) has been set loose in the world untethered and untutored, to face it on its own terms.  He falls into the clutches of Lord Henry (Walter Petryk), a thoroughly unscrupulous and amoral being, who takes a fancy to the young fellow.  He is so entranced that he persuades his artist buddy, Basil (Amber Bogdewiecz) to paint a portrait of him, in which his beauty is preserved forever on canvas.  “And, therein, lies a tale.”

    Gray’s vanity is so great that he confesses that he’d sell his soul, if only the picture would age and absorb his sins, if only he would stay young and beautiful forever.  And so, the pact is sealed.  Gray romances and embraces illusions rather than realities. Sybil (Leslie Renee), an actress, loses her charm when bathed in sunlight instead of spotlights and so he discards her, but her brother Jimmy (Jeremy Gardels), is not so forgetful or forgiving.  Dr. Elaine (Emma Whiteside) has her uses as a scientist, but once her usefulness is complete, he abandons her, too.  Even his faithful servant, Parker (Ryan Pfeiffer) is maltreated, as well as well-to-do friends (Diana Loverso & Steve Marshall).

    His life descends into opium dens, blackmail and even murder until, at last, he must confront…but that would be telling, wouldn’t it?!  The labyrinths of twists and turns, both of the mind and set, is engrossing, as you follow along with the story/characters and are immersed in it.  Stewart has done an amazing job of adapting this material into a two-hour plus show, as well as mapping out (w/designer, Tyler Buswell) the intricate scenic routes. The authentic costumes (Alana Wight) and choice of cast are also assets to this wonderful theatrical experience.  I did miss, though, that the artist of the paintings was not given credit, as they were quite good.  This is pure story-telling style at its best, as well as some great portrait artistry by Raziah Roushan

    But, as thrilling as it all was, the honors of the day must go to Grant-Suttie as Gray.  She is extraordinary, one of the best performances I’ve ever seen in all my years in theatre (40+)!  The way she weaves in and out of various moods, like a snake, from manipulative, to charming, to vulnerable, to explosive, is mind-boggling.  In the end, which Gray survives, the innocent or the profane?  She is a powerhouse on the stage and yet never overpowers the other actors, except when part of the character, a beautifully, modulated performance!  She has quite a pedigree, according to her bio, and this is her Portland debut.  Let us hope we can keep her around for a while. Check her out at www.katherinegrantsuttie.com

    Limited tickets for the remaining shows are available, so best get them now.  Don’t miss this!  I highly recommend this production.  If you do choose to see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.
--DJS
   

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