June 29, 1998
Wilde trials make for riveting drama
by Deborah Stone
Moises Kaufman's "Gross Indecency: The Three Trials of Oscar Wilde" recently opened at the newly remodeled Intiman Playhouse. Under the skillful direction of Intiman's Associate Artistic Director Victor Pappas, this riveting docu-drama details the scandal surrounding the downfall of one of the century's finest writers. Wilde, best known for his plays, "An Ideal Husband" and "The Importance of Being Earnest" and his novella, "The Picture of Dorian Gray" was one of Britain's most flamboyant creative geniuses of the late 1800s.
His wit and brilliance brought him international fame and celebrity status. Kaufman's script weaves together material taken from many historical sources and provides a chronical of the court proceedings that led to Wilde's conviction for "gross indecency," the then-illegal practice of homosexuality.
Actual court transcripts, newspaper accounts, letters of Wilde's friends and enemies, as well as Wilde's own writings are used to present the steps culminating in Wilde's runination and disgrace from society. On a sparse, multi-leveled set, nine actors narrate varying aspects of the case.
Donald Carrier, as Wilde, adeptly handles the gamut of emotions and mannerisms attributed to his role. He speaks eloquently and displays Wilde's well-known airs of superiority when he is discussing his philosophy of art. Initial wit turns to outrage under continuous interrogation. His attempts to defend himself, though brilliant, are no match for Victorian societal taboos and moral codes.
Although the play begins slowly, momentum builds quickly and the second act is an escalating inquisition which becomes emotionally brutal. Wilde's defeat in the end is a shattering experience that crushes his spirit and creativity. "Gross Indecency" is a compelling human drama and social commentary that leaves audiences with much food for thought. The show runs through July 5th. Call 206-269-1900.