In the first of the three trials, Oscar sues the father of his lover, Lord Alfred "Bosie" Douglas, for libel after he left a card at his club calling him a "posing sodomite" (what a civilized way of insulting someone). Oscar's attorney puts up a good case, but when they learn that the defense is going to call several young men as witnesses to testify against Oscar that could result in him being prosecuted for gross indecency, he withdraws the case. Too late - he's immediately arrested and tried. The second trial, against Oscar this time, results in a hung jury. The third and final trial results in Oscar being convicted and sentenced to two years in prison. He suffers injury and illness while in prison, from which he never recovers; he dies just a few years later, in exile in Paris. Oscar has several opportunities to leave the country during this process to escape trial and imprisonment. But he chooses to stay and fight an unjust law, and to stand up for his ideals of art and aestheticism. He argues that he is a poet and an artist, and that his love for Bosie is pure and misunderstood. Unfortunately Oscar's story has a tragic ending, but it provides for a very thought-provoking and engrossing night at the theater, exploring ideas still relevant today.
|Oscar (Craig Johnson) and Bosie|
(Casey Hoekstra, photo by Dan Norman)
The Minneapolis Theatre Garage is one of my favorite smaller theater spaces in the cities. It's a great blank slate in which worlds can be created, with the audience close and intimate as actors often wander through the aisles. Set designer Steve Kath has turned it into a courtroom, with a railinged judge's bench, a movable witness box, tables and benches, and books piled in corners. Costume designer E. Amy Hill has done a great job replicating Oscar's outfit in the photo on the cover of the playbill, down to the fur collar and walking stick. All of the characters are in equally meticulous period garb.
This is the kind of play I like. It's challenging, thought-provoking, historical yet relevant, and engrossing, the kind of play that'll leave you with lots to think about and ponder as you leave the theater. And it's well-written, well-acted, and with great attention to detail in the set and costumes and direction. If this is the kind of play you like too, you have four more chances to see it, this Wednesday through Saturday at the Theatre Garage in Minneapolis.
|Alex Brightwell and the cast of Gross Indecency|
(photo by Dan Norman)