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Theatre Tue Sep 23 2008

"Big Stories, Up Close" Indeed

DORIANPLUNKETTPROD1.jpgIn Lifeline Theatre's production of The Picture of Dorian Gray -- a world premiere of the adaptation by Robert Kauzlaric from Oscar Wilde's novel -- the eponymous character (played by Nick Vidal, pictured here, left, with the elder Lord Henry [Sean Sinitski]) manages to stay forever young by sloughing off the painful consequences of his many and increasingly detestable sins onto a painting of himself. Everyone around him ages, and everyone he touches is drawn into "the depths of depravity," but he remains unchanged. It seems that in such a story, the audience must be fascinated with Dorian, but I found myself focusing on everyone but. I left the theater feeling that the play was an extraordinary success, but I never felt Dorian's charisma, which is really the linchpin of the story. In theory, nothing makes sense without understanding the world's unshakable adoration of Dorian Gray; but Lifeline certainly pulled through.

The staging of the play contributes significantly to this success. The tagline for Lifeline is "Big Stories, Up Close," and boy do they mean it! The theater itself has the feel of a small blackbox, and the stage is quite small, but they fully succeed in presenting a whole world. The stage is divided into two sections by a balcony, and this allows for one of the most brilliant aspects of the play.

Each of the characters that ages while Dorian remains young is represented by a "younger" character and an "elder." They appear on stage at the same time -- one standing on the floor and one on the balcony -- and the melding of the characters is truly seamless. What the younger character experiences, the elder character remembers. I found myself unquestionably believing that the younger Lord Henry Wotton (Paul S. Holmquist) and the elder Lord Henry (Sean Sinitski) are indeed the same person. Regardless of who plays Henry, he has the same tics, the same mannerisms, the same cocksure way of speaking -- but aged exactly 18 years. Holmquist and Sinitski steal the show, and manage to be entirely believable despite the fact that Henry is the messenger for all of the "Wilde-isms" that of course must appear in a Wilde play. The character of Basil (Aaron Snook as "Younger" and Don Bender as "Elder") was also extremely well played. Through Snook's portrayal we understand that Gray is indeed worshiped, even if we can't entirely understand why. Overall, the acting was more than admirable, and the production was impressive.

And here's something I love about Chicago: This jewel of a play (really, this jewel of a theater company, now in its 26th year) has a home in the Glenwood Avenue Arts District, in Rogers Park. You might have noticed it if you've taken the Red Line past the Morse stop -- it's right there next to the El tracks. If you don't get a chance to see Dorian (although you really should!), do yourself a favor and take hop off the El to this theater to see any one of their upcoming shows.

Dorian will be running through November 2: Fridays @ 7:30, Saturdays @ 4:00 and 8:00, Sundays @ 4:00. $30 (group, student, and senior discounts available). 773-761-4477 or click here.

 
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Architecture Tue Nov 03 2015

Paul Goldberger Describes the "Pragmatism and Poetry" of Frank Gehry's Architecture in His New Book

By Nancy Bishop

Architecture critic Paul Goldberger talks about Frank Gehry's life and work in a new book.
Read this feature »

Steve at the Movies Fri Jan 01 2016

Best Feature Films & Documentaries of 2015

By Steve Prokopy

Read this column »

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