“Be yourself. Everyone else is taken.”
— Oscar Wilde
TRAVERSE CITY — The Old Town Playhouse has gone “wilde” with “An Ideal Husband, “ a full week before the classic Oscar Wilde comedy about late Victorian England opens on May 3.
The Playhouse is even offering a 2-for-1 special for ticket buyers under 30.
During the last two weeks, cast and crew have left about 4,000 “Wilde Cards” and 3,000 bookmarks around town — restaurants, coffee shops, bookstores, the library and every other place they go — to call attention to the play and the Irish playwright’s penchant for writing epigrams, those short witty phrases that have endured the test of time.
Each Wilde Card contains one of 18 epigrams, for instance:
“I can resist everything except temptation.”
“I’m not young enough to know everything.”
“We are all in the gutter but some of us are looking at the stars.”
“I love talking about nothing…It is the only thing I know anything about.”
“We want this to go viral,” said Tom Webb, retired marketing instructor in charge of play publicity. “Anyone who collects the whole set of 18 cards will win a ‘secret’ prize.”
Meanwhile, costumers Pinkie Hoffman, Nancy Albrecht and their crew of seamstresses have been knee-deep in yards of cloth, buttons, bows and ribbons since March 1, making 13 dresses for the six actresses and pulling together trousers, waistcoats and tuxedos for the six actors.
“It’s a huge job because we’re making all of the women’s dresses from scratch,” Hoffman said. “One pattern called for nine yards of fabric.”
The Playhouse will host opening weekend receptions at 6:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, May 3 and 4, and at 2 p.m. Sunday, May 5. Friday’s reception will be sponsored by Grandview Catering (Fire Fly), Saturdays by Om Café and Sunday’s by Stella and Light of Day Organic Teas.
Director Jan Dalton will talk to the audience at each reception. Oscar Wilde, played by OTP member Geoffrey Wallace, will also be on hand to chat with the audience and sign Wilde books and plays, made available for purchase by Horizon Books.
The satire begins at a mid-1890s dinner party for the London elite. Host and hostess are Sir Robert Chiltern (Christopher Boyer), a member of Parliament who is about to deliver the report of his special investigative commission to the House of Commons about an Argentine canal project, and his wife, Lady Gertrude Chiltern (Ella Bole), who prides herself on having the “Ideal Husband” — a model of perfection in both private and public life.
Sir Robert’s charming but otherwise uninspired friend, Lord Arthur Goring (David Dennison), is also there as are Sir Robert’s sister, Mabel (Meg Parker), and others. The dark intrigue begins when the villainous Mrs. Cheveley (Mychelle Hopkins) arrives to blackmail Sir Chiltern with a letter he wrote years before. It confirms that he sold government secrets about the Suez Canal to fund his rise to political power. Mrs. Cheveley threatens to expose him if he doesn’t support an Argentine canal, one of her investments.
First performed in 1895, the comedy pokes fun at social and political issues of England’s Victorian era. It was an age noted for its social restraint, proper etiquette and double standards, running a blind and parallel course with poverty, child labor, prostitution, women’s struggle for the vote and higher education, political corruption and scandal.
“In Victorian England, people couldn’t talk or make jokes about these kinds of things, but they could go to the theater, see and laugh at themselves,” Dalton, the director, said.
The play will be performed 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and at 3 p.m. for Sunday matinees May 3-5, 9-12 and 16-18. Tickets are available at the box office, by calling 947-2210 or online at oldtownplayhouse.com.