by Lorie Lewis Ham
Gross Indecency: The Three Trials of Oscar Wilde, presented by The New Ensemble, opened this past weekend at the Broken Leg Stage in the Tower. I never know what I’m going to get when I see a TNE show as they tend to do more out of the box kind of shows that I’ve never seen before. What I always know is that it will be interesting, thought provoking, and well done.
It’s a little hard to explain the basic setting of the show, but here goes–it is like a group of actors coming together and acting out various roles, and with the exception of the one playing Oscar Wilde, they are all in their normal clothes. Inside the program it says, “The action of the play occurs today in a small theater prepared for a working rehearsal by the actors of the Company. They have come together to explore through the theatrical arts, the story of Oscar Wilde’s trials in London in 1895. The text is drawn from real life letters, transcripts, and eye-witness accounts.”
Now at first glance you may think that this type of presentation could take away from the telling of the story, but when you see it, you see that it doesn’t. Once you get into the story you can still easily envision these actors as their characters, and the story they are telling is intriguing and sad. Essentially Oscar Wilde was put on trial for being gay–the punishment for which was two years in prison, possibly with hard labor. But he was not only put on trial because of his actions, his art was put on trial as well.
I came to this play with little to no knowledge of these events–I simply knew Oscar Wilde as an author and a playwright. This story was very intriguing. It was also so tragic and shocking by our current world standards that at times the audience gasped. Another sad part of this story is its relevance to today and the fact that there are still people who feel the same way about homosexuality, and that there are still people who are in a sense put on trial for their art–though not in a legal way anymore.
Besides the story itself, what struck me was something that at first I didn’t know if I’d like–Oscar Wilde, the only one in costume, who gets into costume in front of you, is played by a woman, Haley White. But it didn’t take long before her ability to become this character amazed me. Haley’s ability to portray the emotion, the wit, the intelligence, and the sadness of the character was incredible. She became Oscar Wilde for me during those two hours and I hurt for him.
The set was minimal–merely chairs. The costumes as I stated were only White’s. Yet Gross Indecency took me on an amazing journey with great skill. It was a moving show and Haley was brilliant! Jaguar Bennett did a very convincing job as the villain, as always, and Bridget Martin was moving as the young man who so loved Oscar and who was at the center of the trials. Oh and I have now begun reading Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde!
If you are looking for a show to move you and make you think, don’t miss Gross Indecency at Broken Leg Stage in Fresno, running through May 4. Tickets can be purchased at the door, or through their website. More info can also be found on KRL’s local theatre page.
Check out the other theatre reviews up tonight & come back every Wednesday for a new Local Live!