Saturday, July 8, 2017

Review of The Runaways Lab Theatre's The Portrait of Dorian Gray in Association with Pop Magic Productions

Once upon a time I went to show and it was called The Portrait of Dorian Gray. It was based on the novella "The Picture of Dorian Gray" by Oscar Wilde and written by Olivia Lilley and the ensemble. It was directed by Olivia Lilley. It was about a woman named Dorian Gray (Dorothy Humphrey) and she was drawn by her friend Ivy (Jojo Brown) as a tattoo. And Ivy didn't want to use it as a tattoo and so she gave it to Dorian. And the portrait starts to get more and more decrepit while Dorian stays young. She starts a reign of terror, murdering people with words, drugs, and knives. Lord Henry (Peter Wilde) is a comfort to Dorian, helping her get over her guilt, but Lord Henry is oblivious to how terrible she is being. It is about youth, temptation, and appearances. I think this was a really good show. It was a new and intriguing version of this story. I really liked it.

I had not read the book when I saw the show, but I was intrigued by the show and wanted to read it, so I did. I think there were a lot of differences, but those differences didn't make me angry like sometimes differences in adaptations do because they weren't trying to make an exact adaptation of the book. But they were true to the book with all the feelings and aspects and the major plot points. It had the same main idea which was basically that Dorian was obsessed with staying young and being beautiful and was not facing the consequences for her/his actions. One of the changes I really liked was to Sibyl Vane (Mary Kate Young), the person that Dorian drives to suicide with his harsh words. In the book she is an actress and in the play she is an Instagram star, which an interesting choice. It shows how much of a mask she is wearing in both cases. When she is an actress she is not being herself. And when she is being who she is on the internet, that is also not who she really is. She was more pathetic in the book. She was young and innocent and didn't know what she was doing. But in the play you felt like maybe she could fend for herself, and then when she can't it is even more sad. In the book, Dorian falls in love with Sibyl's characters, and in the play she falls in love with her persona. I think that was a good update. It wasn't just for the sake of updating; they really pursued the topic of the internet throughout the play. They didn't just drop in the reference to Instagram "for the kids." They also changed Alan from the book to Alice (Kat Christensen). And instead of making the character just a scientist, they made her someone who designed drugs and dealt them. Both acted as clean-up crew of Dorian's victims. I think the play really showed how messed up Dorian was, and she treated her body in a way that if she hadn't been immortal, she would probably be dead. That is also true in the book, but not quite as clear.

Both the book and the play are actually quite funny, even though they are about a character who is dangerous, selfish, and impulsive. One of my favorite moments that was funny, but also slightly sad because of what it leads to, was where Ivy was invited to come over by Dorian and she got so excited. She was so excited and giddy. She gets to Dorian's house and she brought the wine and was freaking out but trying to be cool. But she ended up being adorably awkward, like asking about if they should toast and being in awe of how famous Dorian was. It was adorable and funny, but by the end the romance that she had in mind doesn't really work out. Also, there is another hilarious moment near the top of the show, when Lord Henry is introducing lordself to Dorian and says, "my pronouns are lord." It was so hilarious and perfectly timed. It was amazing. Lord Henry also had a most-likely improvised moment, where lord's purse broke and lord said, "You can't buy quality these days" which was just a perfect line.

Dorian had two very important relationships: with Ivy and Lord Henry. One of them thought they were more important emotionally to her than they were, which was very sad and moving, and I think that is why I love this story so much. Ivy is the equivalent of Basil Hallward, the painter, in the book. It was so heartbreaking how Dorian used Ivy because it was clear that Ivy really loved Dorian. You could see it on Ivy's face. Her performance was heartbreaking and breathtaking at the same time. She was so true to the character's pain but it wasn't like she wouldn't let any humor into her performance. In the book, Basil is also infatuated with Dorian, but it seems to be more like admiration. I think that is because at that time people were more terrified of being discovered as gay. Oscar Wilde had to write about how Basil felt about Dorian in a more toned-down way. Oscar Wilde did go to prison for "gross indecency," which is infuriating because he just wanted to be who he was and he was arrested and sentenced to two years in prison for that. Lord Henry is basically the guide for Dorian through all of her her ups and downs. Lord introduces her to a new way of living that wasn't so restricted. Lord takes her to a leather bar, which is where she meets Alice and starts her killing spree. In the book, Lord Henry introduces Dorian to a book, a scandalous book, that introduces him to the idea of doing whatever he wants whenever he wants to whoever he wants. Once Dorian in the play is introduced to drugs, she discovers how immune she feels to everything and embraces her hedonism.

People who would like this show are people who like explorations of hedonism, new-fangled old stories, and lord pronouns. I think that people should definitely go see this show. I've really enjoyed both of the awesome shows I've seen from this company. They are really great at making you care about characters you thought you knew and showing you a new twist on them.

Photos: Nico Fernandez, Michael Rivera

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