The Stage Guild is back! And in full form as if they never skipped a beat. After a two-year hiatus, the Washington Stage Guild has returned and mounts Lord Arthur Savile’s Crime with a fun-filled swagger that would do Oscar Wilde proud. There’s something about the unwavering articulation of the language, and exquisite direction that the Stage Guild is known for that is unmistakable. All of the theatrical elements have aligned to make this production a bona fide hit at all levels– casting, staging, and direction.
All the cast members give commendable performances, a testament to perfect pitch direction by Bill Largess who also provided the wonderfully modern adaptation. James Konicek’s performance in the title role is as good as it gets. His expressions and reaction shots are as delectable as his exquisite delivery. Lord Arthur, who isn’t the sharpest knife in the drawer, gets along on his sweet temperament, charm, and good will. Konicek plays Lord Arthur with an endearing and charming innocence that has you rooting for him no matter how dim-witted his schemes. He submits to his own lame-brain ideas with assuredness and hurls himself into the strangest situations that would make you cringe with disbelief were it not so hilarious. His Lord Arthur is not a two-dimensional caricature—far from it. He is a well-mannered, articulate gentleman perfectly suited to wooing the woman of his dreams, as soon as he handles some pesky premonition involving him and a murder that must happen first. Needless to say, hilarity beckons at the door of that mishap.
Konicek is ably supported by seasoned cast members David Bryan Jackson and the always reliable Vincent Clark in various roles, as well as Laura Giannerelli and Tricia McCauley as a well-meaning Duchess and his love interest/on-again, off-again fiancée, respectively. This quartet of characters functions as Lord Arthur’s key relationships, but then each splinters off and portrays other characters along Arthur’s hapless journey to fulfillment and happiness. Lynn Steinmetz bustles about in the pivotal role of Lady Windermere, setting the tone of various scenes, clarifying the action, and even pontificating on all manner of subjects where needed. Lady Windermere serves as an anchor in the sometimes madcap scenes of changed identities and characters that scurry along the well designed set (Carl F. Gudenius), in beautiful costumes (William Pucilowsky). Largess keeps the characters on their toes whether they are front and center or assisting with scene changes in perfect character, their movements and motions always crystal clear.
It all comes down to knowing and trusting the language, and that’s Washington Stage Guild’s trademark. Wilde’s keen wit is as fresh today, and maybe even more applicable now than in his day– his distinctions between talking and listening should be included in Capitol Hill briefing books, and his take on marriage as a socially acceptable institution for misunderstanding hits all kinds of marks. The play is packed with a steady stream of Wilde-isms. That makes the double duty of Largess as adaptor even more remarkable since he captures Wilde’s style and tone to a tee. This gem of a show makes you ache for the unwritten stories and plays snuffed out by a life cut short. Ah, the vicissitudes of early Victorian and Edwardian society that couldn’t tolerate a free-spirited love that dare not say its name.
And so, we have what we have, in this case, a playful rendition derived from one of Wilde’s backburner short stories, in the more than capable hands of the re-emerged Washington Stage Guild and with a gifted actor at the helm. What a treat, especially as presented in a well-suited and newly acquired space at Mount Vernon Place United Methodist Church. Life is good.
Lord Arthur Savile’s Crime
Based on a Short Story by Oscar Wilde
Adapted and Directed by Bill Largess
Produced by The Washington Stage Guild
Reviewed by Debbie Minter Jackson
LORD ARTHUR SAVILE’S CRIME