What is the most important aspect of marriage? Is it love? Forgiveness? Joy? Trust? In the play An Ideal Husband, Oscar Wilde explores the relationship of two married lovers whose entire monetary wealth is based on a lie, and tests the bond between them when the truth is presented. Of course, there are other questions and themes posed in this play, but the main underlying theme is the fact that people aren’t perfect. Everybody makes mistakes, and that is why love and forgiveness are needed in all successful relationships.
In the Idaho Shakespeare Festival production of this play, tension between the characters and the bonds between them are tested exquisitely, and everything from the acting and design, to the direction of the play was done promoting this underlying theme of dealing with our mistakes with love and forgiveness.
First of all, the actors all across the board helped to illustrate the idea of ideal, non-ideal, and delusional marriages. Laura Perrotta, the actor of Mrs. Cheveley, did an amazing job acting out what the non-ideal wife would be in the play. Mrs. Cheveley was the only inherently bad character of the play, and Perrotta played the part well. For instance, she kept her nose up during the play, and her bodily movements were lavish and almost conceited in a way. She talked in a way that made her look like she was trying to be better than everyone else, on top of her lines. This helped to show that she definitely had ulterior motives, and the acting created a type of annoyance for the audience that detached them from liking her character.
Lord Goring was played by David Anthony Smith, and I thought that this was one of the best performances of the night. His character appears to be the epitome of an ideal husband, because he knows he is not perfect and therefore does not try to impress the girl he is in love with, Miss Mabel. However, at the end of the play they both know that they will be happy even though he is far from a perfect person. With this idea in mind, Smith offered a great performance because of his unhindered optimistic tone throughout the play. Also, Smith’s exuberance and almost blunt humoristic tone provided a great way for the audience to attract to him, and see him as the most ideal husband.
Furthermore, Jodi Dominick, who played Lady Chiltern, offered a great performance of a delusional wife that expects too much out of her husband. One of the best parts of her act of the night was after her husband yells at her for expecting too much of him, when she sobs. Dominick falls to the floor while she cries rather loudly, and to me this portrayed that her very soul must have been damaged from finding out the truth of her husband. This relates back to the theme because you can tell that it will be hard for her to forgive her husband for not being straight up with her in the first place, and she realizes that the perfect husband she thought she had is not so perfect after all.
Also, the actor’s costumes were designed very well. All of the ladies were in lavish outfits, which portrayed the high class of London. For the men, all of them except for Lord Goring were in a black overcoat and formal suits. For me, this portrayed that all of the suitors and men alike were attempting to appear perfect in front of other people. The reason this is important is because Lord Goring was dressed in a bright orange suit. This portrayed that there was something different about him, and that he does not attempt to appear perfect because he knows he is not. Also, Lord Goring’s outfit’s colors matched Miss Mabel’s, which gave them a deeper connection at the start of the play.
Furthermore, there could have been more lighting choices done for the play, but there were parts nonetheless that worked well with the message. For instance, when Lady Chiltern is crying, all other light dies out and she is the only one in the spotlight. This focuses the entire audience on her to show that this is a defining moment in the play, since she no longer sees her husband in a perfect light. However, for most other parts in the play the lighting was even throughout, and I thought that it could have worked more to focus on specific actors at specific moment to better display the theme of the play. Overall, though, the lighting was well done.
As for the music, there was only music during the parties in the play when people were socializing or dancing together, and the various scene changes. This, to me, showed a greater depth of perfection in the music, actors, and dancing, which I think helped build up to the event when Lady Chiltern finds out about her husband’s secret, because everything is not perfect anymore.
There were also quite a few good directing choices that were definitely used to further the depth of the underlying theme of the play. Firstly is the connection between Lady Chiltern and her husband, and how it changes throughout the play. Before she finds out about her husband’s lie, she is very connected to him and is always looking at him whenever she is not preoccupied. When she finds out about his lie, she avoids his eye contact and moves away, talking to him from halfway across the stage. And finally, at the end of the play, they are back together again and even closer than before. This definitely helps tie in the forgiveness aspect of the theme, because it did hurt for Lady Chiltern to find out about his lie, but in the end it worked out for the better.
Another good directing choice was the scene changes that involved the Butler (Gordon Reinhart) and other footmen who changed around the chairs and added or removed scenery to the play between different scenes. During this time, the lights are turned to blue, and classical, march-like music is played in the background while the footmen’s movements are precisely timed and choreographed to each other and the music. This was a complete addition to the play, and I thought that it helped to discreetly portray the theme of the play in that perfection is in a sense unrealistic and dreamlike. Furthermore, the footmen that moved the props around were robotic and unemotional, which also may show that a perfect marriage is definitely not an ideal marriage, because without hardships and trouble there will be no emotion or love towards one another.
In conclusion, this was a very well-done production that in every way portrayed the underlying theme that all people, and therefore all marriages, are imperfect, and that is why without forgiveness, love, and understanding, marriages will be doomed to fail.