Review: An Ideal Husband

Oscar Wilde’s play takes a surprising turn

In Oscar Wilde’s play “An Ideal Husband”, directed by Keith Baxter, blackmail, love, comedy, and drama cross paths as Sir Robert played by Gregory Wooddell enchants the crowd with his performance. The show started promptly at 8:00 pm at the Shakespeare Theatre Company on 610 F St. NW, and began at a dinner party at Sir Robert Chilterns home in London.

Sir Robert is a prestigious member of the House of Commons and hosts the party with his wife Lady Chiltern played by Rachel Pickup all the while meeting and entertaining their guests. The witty bachelor Lord Goring played by Cameron Folmar, kept the audience laughing throughout the play as he stressed ideals of immorality, pleasure, and youth, much at the chagrin of his father, the Earl of Caversham, played by David Sabin.

Sir Robert Chiltern, an up-and-coming politician, faces a dilemma when he is blackmailed by the crafty Mrs. Cheveley, played by Emily Raymond. Mrs. Cheveley (wearing a vibrant red dress) threatens Sir Robert to go public with a letter detailing the truth behind his vast fortune and rise to prominence during his youth. As an aide, he “swindled” the government by buying stock in a massive project knowing the government was about to invest hugely in it. Caught between a rock and a hard place, Sir Robert is pressed to listen to Mrs. Cheveley’s demands as she tells him that the only way he will get his letter back is if he would withdraw his opposition in Parliament to the construction of an Argentine canal-building project that would make her wealthier. His refusal would lead to much public embarrassment and possibly, the end of his ambitious career prematurely. Sir Robert agonizes over this secret and ponders how he could keep such an act from his wife, while confiding in his friend Lord Goring for advice.

As the story progresses, we learn that Lord Goring proposes to and is accepted by Lady Mabel Chiltern, played Claire Brownell. The two actors have a great chemistry on stage and really held the audiences’ attention whenever they made an entrance. After a series of hilarious events, Lord Goring is informed that Sir Robert decided to denounce the Argentine canal project and that Sir Robert’s secret is safe.

Lord Goring was able to blackmail Mrs. Cheveley into letting him have the letter and burns it immediately however, she is able to steal a separate letter from Lady Chiltern that could potentially destroy their marriage. Lord Goring and Lady Chiltern find out, and set out to make things right with Sir Robert. Eventually, the two reconcile and Sir Robert permits Lord Goring to marry his sister while Sir Robert is praised by Lord Caversham for his speech in Parliament and offered a position in government.

The props were used to effectively in making the setting feel realistic. The characters would transition from the Sir Robert’s home to Lord Goring’s house in Curzon Street, all the while occupying the same stage space.  The layout of the mansion looked realistic, especially using a statues, servants, and costumes that draw the audience in to the lives of Englishmen in 19th Century London. This play is recommended to anyone that enjoys witty, sarcastic humor and a drama that explores the themes of marriage.