Culture | Michaela Mohs for The Clarion
Photo for The Clarion by Erin Gallagher.
In the midst of preparing for finals and making summer plans, the theatre department is getting ready for their last show of the school year. As a result, excitement is growing among the theatre arts majors, fans of Oscar Wilde and the rest of the student population.
Wilde, an author known for his witty and whimsical productions, wrote "An Ideal Husband" during the 1890s, taking a slightly more serious tone, focusing on issues such as honesty and respectability.
Though originally written to be set in the late 1800s, the theater department decided to set it in 1904 instead, due to the number of shows already set in the 19th Century.
The costume designer Rick Reese created most of the costumes in the early Edwardian style, fitting for the period. Because the first act of the play takes place at a dinner party, many of the costumes consist of evening dresses for the female characters.
Megan Johnson, actress and senior theatre arts major, said that she was “excited and nervous” for opening night – Thursday, April 25.
Laura Lambert, another senior involved in the production, mentioned that it is funny and has a good message behind it. “It isn’t just something fluffy to do,” she said.
Lambert's character, Mabel, is the sister of the protagonist and provides comic relief in the play. She hopes that people will be drawn to the amount of humor in Wilde’s comedy of manners but can also relate to the more serious emotions and undertones.
The male protagonist, Sir Robert Chiltern – referenced as the “ideal husband,” is played by freshman Jake Annis. Annis said that Chiltern is the character "dealing with most of the issues in the play but also the biggest development.”
Chiltern is threatened with blackmail and has to decide whether or not to tell the truth about his past, risking everything for the sake of honesty.
Johnson summarized the production as “re-defining the ideal.” Her character – Lady Chiltern – struggles with this, as she reconsiders how she views the world.
Additionally, part of the draw of the play goes back to what theatre is all about – life played out on stage. All three actors said the play outlines many biblical perspectives on life, things that “could be, would be, should be very useful to us in the current political climate of our country,” Johnson said.
Having been a part of all but two shows during her time at Bethel, either on stage or behind the scenes, Johnson knows that successful productions draw in the larger community of students. Word of mouth after the first few performances spreads like wildfire, bringing in even more eager theatre-goers.
Lambert agreed, saying, “The best form of advertising [for a play] comes from students talking about it.”
"An Ideal Husband" seems to have something for everyone – whimsical characters, humor, love, hate and “everything that drives us crazy about each other and everything that makes us love each other,” said Johnson. In addition to plenty of intriguing design and visual aspects, the play balances serious themes about the human condition, with classic Oscar Wilde wit.