The Picture of Dorian Gray @ Kirk Theatre, New York

cast list
Kaolin Bass, Christina Broccolini, Leif Huckman, Vayu O’Donnell, Wil Petre, and Jade Rothman.

directed by
Henning Hegland
The Picture of Dorian Gray, Oscar Wildes only novel, has been deftly adapted for the stage by Daniel Mitura in a production currently playing at the Kirk Theatre. Unlike Oscar Wildes stage plays, Dorian Gray is tragedy about the downfall of a young impressionable man. Dorian has sold his soul for eternal youth and is encapsulated in a picture that mocks him with the physical ravages of age and sin while he stays beautiful, healthy, and young.

Henning Hegland makes some wonderful choices in the staging of the show within its intimate theater. The production features a simple set, nicely lit by Joe Novack, where the cast members stay upstage – but always on-stage – when not in the scene. The effectiveness of this dramatic device builds over the course of the intermission-less play.
The voice of detachment, amusement and hedonism is provided by Henry, wonderfully fleshed out by Vayu ODonnell. Henry engages and influences the young Dorian to experience life fully but never seriously, as a game where the losers dont count. Henry is the light, humorous and subversive voice of Oscar Wilde, readily familiar from his plays. And Mr. ODonnell delivers the words with the panache that makes them irresistible.

Leif Huckman plays Basil, the artist and friend to Dorian. He embodies the adoration and hunger for the beauty of this young man, even as it leads to Basils own downfall. Mr. Huckman plays the role well, too late coming to the conclusion that something is not right with his friend.

Dorian Gray himself is played by Wil Petre, with flashes of excellence but Petre is mostly unable to seamlessly pull off the role. As a young Dorian, Mr. Petre does an great job showcasing his wonderment and thirst for life. But as Dorian ages and his bitterness grows, Mr. Petre loses touch with the character, and the dialogue becomes motivated by language rather than feelings. Occasionally, as when sardonically sipping Scotch, Mr. Petre shows a full understanding of the character; but more often the Dorian as written is far more weary of life than what Mr. Petre portrays.

The additional cast members pull off the smaller roles very well. Christina Broccolini and Kaolin Bass, as a discarded love interests, fully show their emotions with a minimum of stage time. And in these minor tragedies, the device to have them on stage, albeit in the rear, but in character, helps immensely. For, although unheard for much of the show, the audience sees their emotional growth (or death) as Dorian changes.

The Kirk Theatre is a relatively small space, and it is a tribute to the technical team, the director and movement director, Ward Billeisen, that the show never gets confusing or lost. Despite the passage of time and constant movement of the cast on stage, the focus is always correctly placed. It is a fun show to see.

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