Review: An Ideal Husband at Big Idea Theatre
An Ideal Husband
Oscar Wilde’s social satire An Ideal Husband, opens at a dinner party in the home of the highly regarded member of the House of Commons, Sir Robert Chiltern (Eric Craig), and his adoring, highly principled wife Lady Chiltern (Ashley Rose). Among the attendees is Mrs. Cheveley (Elizabeth Holzman, who carries the stage authority of a Kathy Bates), an old enemy of Lady Chiltern from school days, who wants to secure a lucrative Argentinian investment that is dependent upon a government decision. During the party, she attempts to blackmail Sir Robert into supporting her scheme. She knows the dark secret of his current wealth and position and has proof that will ruin him. Sir Robert’s only salvation may be that Mrs. Cheveley has a dark secret, too—and his wife knows exactly what that is.
Directed here by Kevin Adamski and Nina Dramer, this fine-tuned 1895 comedy revolves around blackmail, political corruption, the status of women in society and questions of public and private morality.
Wilde’s satire plays out in a domestic comedy involving love, affection, ambition—and a surprisingly contemporary bromance in which two friends, Lord Robert (Craig) and Lord Arthur Goring (Ian Hopps) are seen to value the other’s well-being as much as his own. There is a scene late in the first act in which the two reveal their authentic selves and determine the proper course of action. The give and take between the men is magical, a joy to watch. The scene is stunning stagecraft.