Avon with a Cast of Ideal Characters!

stratford_AnIdealHusband2018_33962364_10154757994362168_590357050270154752_nPhoto: Left to Right. Jonelle Gunderson as Mrs. Margaret Marchmont; Brad Hodder as Lord Arthur Goring; Déjah Dixon-Green as Lady Olivia Basildon Photo Credit: Emily Cooper – with Dora De Siati

Just returned from seeing Oscar Wilde’s play An Ideal Husband at the Avon theatre in the city of Stratford, Ontario.  The May 29, 2018 performance was a preview directed by Lezlie Wade, yet received a resounding and standing thank-you from the audience. I thought the production had a slow and lacklustre start, as if the performers were all too aware of the audience.  Moments later we get a set change and things begin to heat up on stage.  After all, Oscar Wilde is known for writing brilliant dialogue that puts a fire beneath a body.

Wade has several coveted productions under her belt, including Director of HMS Pinafore; Assistant director, Jesus Christ Superstar (La Jolla/Broadway); and, productions for Shaw Festival in Ontario’s famous wine region Niagara-on-the-Lake.  Wade’s awards include a Dora nomination, A Man of No Importance (Acting Up Stage), Tom Hendry Award shortlist, The Remarkable Journey of Prince Jen.

I cannot say enough about the stunning costumes by Patrick Clark, opulent set design by Douglas Paraschuk that places the theatre-goer smack in the moment at Sir Robert Chiltern’s house in 1895 London, England, Grosvenor Square.  Just go and see An Ideal Husband for yourself.  No dark moments here to dampen a sunny day…simply Oscar Wilde wit and polished pomp.

An Ideal Husband is the work of Oscar Wilde born in Dublin in 1854; he worked tirelessly on the play for nearly two-years prior to its publication in 1895.  The Importance of Being Earnest, Wilde’s final completed play was staged in 1895.  Wilde’s writing output was prolific, and far ranging in scope from prose to plays; he joined the lecture circuit making his way to Canada and the United States. To earn extra cash Wilde accepted the offer to become the editor of The Woman’s World; but, perhaps, his most famous work is the controversial novel The Picture of Dorian Gray published in 1891 and taken up by Hollywood as a horror/drama film in 1945.

Wilde was the son of a surgeon, Sir William Wilde, and his wife, Jane, a poet and Irish nationalist, a product of private home schooling in his early youth and then later Oxford where he excelled in academia.   Married and the father of two young children, he was well known in London’s homosexual quarters during a time when sex between men was illegal and frowned upon by Victorian society.  Oscar Wilde famously said that “the only thing in the world worse than being talked about…is not being talked about.”  The author got more than he doubtless bargained for in terms of celebrity when he received two years’ imprisonment at Reading Gaol for “gross indecency” as set out in the Labouchere Amendment passed in 1885, mere months after the opening of An Ideal Husband.  After three-years and some months after his release from prison, Oscar Wilde died on November 30, 1900 in Paris of cerebral meningitis at forty-six.

Although the primary genesis of An Ideal Husband is one of forgiveness, Oscar Wilde delved into parts of the human condition for most we fail or do not wish to give voice.  History points out that Wilde himself laboured many times over the ending of An Ideal Husband.  Wilde’s final ending of his play to my mind was to showcase love in all its power to transform  human will for the better…but with a sly wink, and another perfectly adorned boutonniere buttonhole!

Stratford Festival 2018 season is Tim Campbell’s 10th season.  Campbell plays Sir Robert Chiltern, one of the leads in the cast of An Ideal Husband; Brad Hodder, a veteran of six seasons, plays Lord Arthur Goring.  Dejah Dixon-Green plays her first season at the Festival as Lady Olivia Basildon; Jacklyn Francis plays the Duchess of Maryborough and is a Jan A. Chalmers Award winner;  Sophia Walker plays Lady Gertrude Chiltern, Sir Robert’s wife, and is the winner of Mary Savidge, Michael Mawson and Jean A. Chalmers, and Dora awards; Miss Mabel Chiltern, Sir Robert’s sister, is played by Zara Jestadt who received her theatre training at George Brown Theatre School, McGill University and Etobicoke School of the Arts; Marion Adler plays Lady Markby; Joseph Ziegler plays Lord Caversham.  In 2000 Ziegler directed Paul Gross as Hamlet and was part of the Stratford company in the 1980s;  Mrs. Margaret Marchmont is played by Jonelle Gunderson and received her theatre training at Factory Theatre Mechanicals;  Robert King plays Phipps in An Ideal Husband, played in The Diary of Anne Frank, and lives in Stratford with his wife, Peggy, and children;  Bahareh Yaraghi plays Mrs. Laura Cheveley, enjoying her second season at Stratford; and, Vicomte de Nanjac, attache’ at the French Embassy is played by Rylan Wilkie.

Director: Lezlie Wade; Assistant Director: Carson Nattrass; Stage Manager: Maxwell T. Wilson; Set Designer: Patrick Clark; Costume Designer: Patrick Clark; Lighting Designer: Louise Guinand; Composer: Leslie Arden; Sound Designer: Richard Feren; Choreographer: Diana Coatsworth; Producer: David Auster; Support for the 2018 season of the Avon Theatre is provided by the Birmingham family.

Note: For the  May 29, 2018 2:pm performance the role of Mason usually played by Anton Lipovetsky will be played by Andrew Iles.  The roles of Footmen will be played by Robert King and Rylan Wilkie.

An Ideal Husband plays at the Stratford Festival at the AVON Theatre, May 11, 2018 to October 28, 2018.


http://www.stratfordfestival.ca  Ask about the Stratford Direct Bus Toronto to the various Stratford Festival theatres in order to see the play of your choice. Departure in Toronto at Front and Simcoe streets (south/west corner) at 10:am with return from Stratford, Ontario approximately 5:pm with arrival to Front and Simcoe streets at approximately 7:30pm.  There are additional Stratford Direct Bus schedules for evening performances.  Toll Free: 1-800-567-1600.  Ask about Stratford Kids’ $19.50 theatre ticket.

Bed & Breakfast in Stratford:

http://www.patchofheavenbandb.com  Toll Free telephone:  1-800-447-8112 Local telephone: 519-273-2672

http://www.ambercroftbandb.com  1880 Gothic Revival, John Way.  2007 Ontario Heritage Act. Local telephone:  519-271-5644

Stratford, Ontario offers much to do in the city! http://www.visitstratford.ca  Toll Free: 1-800-561-7926  47 Downie Street, Stratford, Ontario





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