Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Dorian Gray Portrait Reviews

This is why I love theater and don't take bad reviews* to heart. My job is to make the director I am working for happy and if I can achieve that, my job is done. That said, I recently did a project for Kevin Theis and Lifeline Theater, The Picture of Dorian Gray. Great project, great director, great design crew, great theater company.

Detail from Dorian Gray Portrait for Lifeline Theater

I was hired to create the portrait of Dorian Gray. A fun, but daunting project as Kevin wanted the painting to change in front of the audience in realtime during the show. He also had a different take on the final portrait than the norm. (See Ivan Albright's painting in the Art Institute of Chicago.)

The production itself has gotten rave reviews. These excerpts that refer to the work I did. Keep in mind that they are all looking at the same paintings and the same play.

“The conceit in Wilde's tale is that Dorian never grows visibly older. Instead, the scars on his soul pile up on the surface of the grand portrait (a sensational canvas by Charlie Athanas) painted in his most golden young manhood.”
Hedy Weiss – Chicago Sun-Times

“The picture itself is often done up as a boring portrait that rarely reflects Wilde’s own description of its beauty, so it is refreshing to see not only how much that the picture looks like an idealized version of the lead character, but that it is done up in a neo-Impressionistic style reflective of its era. And though the transformations themselves happen through sound effects while the painting is usually not visible, the climax and final portrait will not disappoint.”
Dennis Polkow - New City

“This is a tough work to stage theatrically—for one thing, you need a kind of magic portrait that ages every few minutes—and Kevin Theis’ production laudably keeps things deft and simple. And the trick portrait, which was designed by Charlie Athanas, is a wild-looking affair even if it doesn’t change as Wilde intended.”
Chris Jones – Chicago Tribune

“Technically this production is superior to most… The special effects are particularly well-done, conjuring up eerie environments, and ghostly images and causing the portrait's--and Dorian's--deterioration right before our eyes… As an adaptation and as a unique work of art, this is a must-see event.”
Colin Douglas – Centerstage

“Kevin Theis’ fast paced staging on Tom Burch’s two level set with terrific lighting from Kevin D. Gawley (including some amazing effects on the Gray portrait) produced work filled with mounting tension that builds into a scary gothic horror tale.”
Tom Williams -

“… its only major flaw is Charlie Athanas’s titular portrait (deformed in the story by Dorian’s sins). It’s an unintentionally hilarious dead ringer for the Crypt Keeper.”
Zac Thompson – Time Out Chicago

“The one off note in the whole production is the portrait itself, which is way-too-ugly pop art cartoon than fits the Victorian-era drama of which it is the centerpiece. When the fully "uglified" picture is revealed at the end, I found it a struggle not to laugh aloud. It is a lot more Mad magazine than Oscar Wilde. It is most definitely not inspired by the famous Ivan Albright 1943 vision of Dorian Gray one can see at the Art Institute.”
Jack Hafferkamp – Edge Chicago

*I came to Chicago in 1981 to act in a play. The Reader review for that production ended with the sentence - "Stay away in droves." I was prepared for Chicago theater reviews from then on.

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