An Ideal Husband: A More than Ideal Production–Theatre

A witty Oscar Wilde play, a terrific cast and breathtaking costumes and sets make for a highly entertaining production of the Shakespeare Theatre’s An Ideal Husband.  Under the direction of Keith Baxter, Oscar Wilde’s wry humor comes to life and feels as fresh today as it might have when first produced in 1895. And certainly politicians with skeletons in their closet are nothing new…today’s rogues just don’t handle their misdeeds with the same panache as Wilde’s Sir Robert Chiltern.

An Ideal Husband’s cast is one of the best the Shakespeare Theatre has assembled in quite some time. Many of the area’s premier character actors are doing their finest work in this production. Nancy Robinette never disappoints and as Lady Markby she’s in top form. Floyd King as Phipps, the servant, is an absolute joy to watch. King does more with a shrug of the shoulders or the lifting of an eyebrow than most actors do with a page of dialogue. Not to be outdone is Shakespeare veteran David Sabin, as the Earl of Caversham, K.G. He is perfect as the worried, demanding father of Lord Goring.

And what of the leads? Cameron Folmar is wonderful as the happily unemployed raconteur, Lord Goring. In lesser hands Goring could be very difficult to convince as a romantic heterosexual, but Folmar  somehow manages to do it. Emily Raymond is terrific as the devious Mrs. Cheveley. As Lady Chiltern, Rachel Pickup is perfectly cast as the wife with the difficult task of softening her steely outlook on everything she holds dear, particularly that of “the ideal husband.” And Gregory Wooddell as Sir Robert Chiltern, the politician with a past, does a very good job in bringing to life a somewhat stodgy character. The only false note in the cast is Claire Brownell as Mabel Chiltern, the sister of Sir Robert, who has a not so subtle crush on Lord Goring. She literally screams her lines and I found myself covering my ears every time she came on stage.

According to the play’s notes, Oscar Wilde, when summoned to the Prince of Wales’ box following the play’s opening, apologized for its length. Yes, An Ideal Husband is long. But we’re in agreement with the Prince who reportedly replied, “Pray, do not take out a single word.”

Runs through April 16

Sidney Harman Hall 610 F Street NW, Washington, DC

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