"Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray": Theater Review

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Through Sept. 19 at the Eureka Theatre, 215 Jackson (at Battery), S.F. $10-$25; 800-838-3006 or www.therhino.org.

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Theatre Rhinoceros' award-winning artistic director, John Fisher, is ambitious and rather prolific. Not only did he direct and star in this three-plus-hour adaptation of Oscar Wilde's only novel, he also wrote it. It's impressive in many areas (costumes, acting, commitment), but it's too long — perhaps because it's overly faithful to the original. Fisher stays true to Wilde's controversial tale of Dorian Gray (played by Aaron Martinsen), who remains young and handsome while his painted portrait changes with the ravages of hedonism and age. Fisher is deft as Lord Henry Wotton, Gray's guide into temptation, but it's hard to overcome the fact that both lead characters are unrelentingly despicable and narcissistic. Many scenes are bogged down with unending moralistic platitudes, something Fisher, if he had been been more willing to deviate from the source material, could have tempered in his adaptation. Choreographer Lia Metz stylizes some of the more dramatic moments, but to witness suicide and murder in pantomime, underscored by bursts of operatic music, feels out of place. Fisher is quite a talent, and with a bit of streamlining, Gray could be an important piece in the theatrical canon.

 
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