Tag Archives: theater

Wilde night out

While many Washingtonians were reveling in the spirit of St. Patrick or cheering on their NCAA picks at the Verizon Center, I was at the Shakespeare Theatre having just as much fun. 

It was quite early this morning when I finally got home. The Shakespeare is right across the street from Verizon and both events let out at the same time. It was March madness on the subway and, from what I could tell, there were only two of us on the train who had not come from a basketball game or an Irish bar—one of the cast members and I.

Thanks to a generous friend—the same one who took me to see George Bernard Shaw’s Mrs. Warren’s Profession there last summer—I enjoyed a delightful performance of Oscar Wilde’s An Ideal Husband, a clever comedy about integrity, political pressures, sky-high expectations and misunderstood relationships. The play had some plot similarities to Mrs. Warren’s Profession, including discovery that one’s wealth sprang from shady beginnings. I also noticed that, after writing their plays in the late 19th century, both Shaw and Wilde were reprimanded for indecency, Shaw for his theme of prostitution and Wilde for personal behavior.

In a review appearing yesterday, The Washington Post criticized the play; not the production or the acting or the directing or the sets or the costumes. The Post just didn’t like the play. The Baltimore Sun was more favorable. I found it beautifully written and superbly funny.

As I was waiting on the train platform to catch the subway home, I noticed among the throngs of revelers, the young man who had played Prinz Frederich von Glücksburg in the play, standing alone with the earbuds of his iPod tucked into place, waiting for the same train. In the time it took me to exit the theatre and walk to the subway, he had exited the stage, shed white tie and tails, pulled on skinny jeans and skate shoes and walked to the subway.

We boarded the crowded car and, a couple of stops later, much of the crowd exited. Prinz Friedrich found a seat and I sat down next to him. I wanted to compliment his performance and the way he delivered all of his lines in impeccable German.

I had met this young actor, Logan DalBello, a couple of times before. I know he’s a high school senior who is thoughtfully planning his next move. He has great drive and ambition for an acting career and immense talent to match. For the last several months, in addition to applying to colleges and auditioning for university theater programs, he has gone to school at 7 a.m. and rehearsed at the Shakespeare from noon to midnight. While his friends no doubt are expressing senioritis and spring fever, he is doing eight performances a week.

Sitting on the train, where he probably wanted to decompress and collect his thoughts for the next day, he graciously indulged my compliments and questions. He even asked me what I liked best about the play.

I loved the play, of course, but what I liked best was sitting next to him on the ride home.

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The oldest profession

Here’s a trivia question for you.

What do Lynn Redgrave and Amanda Quaid have in common?

Lynn Redgrave, the award-winning actress who passed away in May, and Amanda Quaid, daughter of actor Randy Quaid and also a talented actress, both played Vivie Warren in the stage production of George Bernard Shaw’s Mrs. Warren’s Profession.

Why am I telling you this?  For several reasons that I hope you find as interesting as I do.  If not, come back tomorrow when we’ll be talking about the Fourth of July.

In 1976, my godparents flew me up to New York to see Mrs. Warren’s Profession.  It was an enormous thrill to take the shuttle up by myself, go to Lincoln Center, see this an outstanding play with my aunt, uncle and cousin, and then have dinner in the city.

The play starred Ruth Gordon as Mrs. Warren and Lynn Redgrave as her daughter, Vivie.

The night before last, a friend was kind enough to take me to see the Shakespeare Theatre Company perform Mrs. Warren’s Profession in Washington, D.C.   It starred Elizabeth Ashley as Mrs. Warren and Amanda Quaid as Vivie.  And, of course, some notably accomplished male actors, including Ted van Griethuysen, Andrew Boyer, Tony Roach and David Sabin (and may I just say that Sabin was brilliant?).

For those not familiar with the play, which was written in the late 19th century, it is a comedy about a young woman who learns that her privileged upbringing was made possible by her mother’s profitable career as an owner and manager of brothels around Europe.   I’d love to get my hands on the script.  It’s hilarious.

It has been written that the character of Vivie, who at a young age had already begun a career in the business world, was known as the “New Woman” when the play was written in 1893.  In fact, the Shakespeare Theatre Company’s literary associate Akiva Fox notes that “Shaw called Mrs. Warren’s Profession his ‘play for women.’”

Shortly after the play was first performed in London in 1894 (two years before Ruth Gordon was born, by the way), it was censored for dealing with the subject of prostitution.  These days that’s hard to imagine.

Lynn Redgrave, who played Vivie in 1976, had just starred in the movie The Happy Hooker the year before.

As for Ruth Gordon, prior to Mrs. Warren, perhaps her best known role had been Maude in Harold and Maude, which dealt with the oddest of male-female relationships, between an 80-year-old woman and a 19-year-old boy.

I am not connecting any dots here and there are many degrees of separation from Kevin Bacon.  Just some things I found interesting, that’s all.

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