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Review: A witty mind and empty arms in 'Intimately Wilde'

January 17, 2013|By David C. Nichols
  • Ryan Michael Hartman, left, as Bosie and Tim Thorn as Oscar Wilde in "Intimately Wilde" at the Long Beach Playhouse Studio Theatre.
Ryan Michael Hartman, left, as Bosie and Tim Thorn as Oscar Wilde in "Intimately… (Robert Craig )

At the climax of “Intimately Wilde,” a not-yet-disgraced Oscar Wilde struggles over a Savoy dinner with his increasingly vitriolic lover, Lord Alfred “Bosie” Douglas. A bewigged judge overlooks the growing fracas from a jurist’s box like an ominously impassive vulture. It’s the stylistic peak of playwright Terra Taylor Knudson’s nonlinear study and one of several sequences worth the show.

Unfolding during the last 24 hours of Wilde’s two-year term in Reading Gaol -- we are his inferred turn screws -- “Wilde” encapsulates the downfall of the great Victorian aesthete without over-reliance on the letters, diaries and such. Moreover, actor Tim Thorn, although cast against physical type as Wilde, commands the stage with acerbity and pathos.

Director Gigi Fusco Meese provides supple transitions and atmospheric tactics, with designer Donny Jackson’s lighting especially effective. There are other notable acting turns in Derek Long, who embodies multiple roles with aplomb, and Pete Stone’s underused but galvanic Marquess of Queensbery.

But Ryan Michael Hartman’s Bosie, though apt in his effete cupidity, overdoes the petulance, feeling as anachronistic as his modern-day profanities. Nor does author Knudson go beyond respectable competence as Constance Wilde. Certain cast members are collegiate, a dialects coach is needed, and the script could use prudent cuts and no intermission.

Nonetheless, “Intimately Wilde” warrants continued revisions. Wildeans and novices may find it fascinating, even if Moisés Kaufman’s “Gross Indecency” already covered this terrain.

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“Intimately Wilde,” Long Beach Playhouse’s Studio Theatre, 5021 E. Anaheim St., Long Beach. 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays. Ends Jan. 27. $22. (562) 494-1014 or www.lbplayhouse.org. Running time: 2 hours, 15 minutes.

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