Oscar Wilde devotees feel their pulses quicken when one of his plays (or a play about him) is about to open but a chance to see his fairy tales? I wouldn’t miss it. Boston Actors Theater has chosen two stories to animate, “Story Theater” style, from the collection “A House of Pomegranates.” DANCING WILDE (playing through June 28th) uses narration and the language of gestural movement to tell the story of The Young King and The Birthday of the Infana.
Director Danielle Lucas and company weave together dancing, commedia dell’arte, puppetry and poetry, for a performance that children can appreciate on face value—and adults can grasp from reading between the lines. The performers are all lithe and game but some project better than others (especially in the difficult, elongated Boston Playwrights’ space). We sat just right of center and couldn’t hear over the music playing underneath, when actors declaimed to the other side of the stage. Fortunately the movement spelled out the action and they dispensed with the loud music thereafter.
Bailey Libby portrays the lonely, friendless Princess Infana (in Elizabth DuPre’s adaptation) who has been protected from society all her life “for her own good.” However, on this particular birthday she is royally entertained: by a swashbuckling bull fighter (Damon Singletary), a daring tightrope walker, snake charmers and gypsies, only to discover that society is indeed cruel. Kendall Aguier is delightful as the charming dwarf who brings the princess happiness…and as it turns out, through no fault of his own, despair.
Drew Linehan is The Young King (in Nicole Howard’s adaptation of the second story) who dreams that he strolls among his people, like Henry V, the night before his coronation. Before his dream, he had no inkling of the immense toil and suffering which went into mining the rubies for his crown or unearthing the magnificent pearl for his scepter. The players deftly mime rowing a great boat under the whip of the cruel coxswain or diving treacherous waters for the elusive oyster or sweating and slaving to sew gold into every fold of his robe. (Laurie Singletary makes a frightening personification of Avarice to Nick Miller’s hulking specter of Death) To my relief, Wilde offers a hopeful ending in this tale.
Kudos to BAT for reminding us of the expanse of Wilde’s writings and for raising money with this show for BUDDY DOG, a no kill rescue shelter in Sudbury.