‘Dorian Gray’ opens Studio series at Dramashop

In Dramashop’s second production of its 2014-2015 season, a classic gothic horror story adopts a modernized spin. “Dorian Grey” reimagines the “The Picture of Dorian Gray” by Oscar Wilde with a gender-swapped cast.

Artistic director of Dramashop, Zach Flock, said this reimagining of the original text from 1890 is not an adaptation.

“It’s dark, witty, smart; a really wicked play designed to challenge and provoke,” Flock said. “From the script to the direction to the acting, this is a true collaboration by Erie theater practitioners and we’re really excited to see it to completion.”

Beau Bora, who plays Whit, describes his character as embodying the themes of indulgence and greed. Bora, who has been in two other productions at Dramashop, said that “Dorian Grey” offers themes such as secrets and ridicule.

The cast is comprised of Jessica Annunziata (Dorian), Adele Stewart (Baz) and Beau Bora (Whit) with an ensemble comprised of Betsy Butoryak, Jennifer Maloney and Jacyln Emery, a sophomore nursing student at Gannon Univeristy. Also in the cast is Matthew Crays (Paul), a recent Gannon alumnus.

When asked about her initial thoughts on the show, Emery said, “It’s a creepy show, but has some great one-liners. The cast is what makes the show. Everyone should come see it.”

Alaina Manchester, a 2007 Gannon graduate with a degree in theatre and communication arts, directs the piece.

“Alaina’s directing methods for this show in particular have been a collaboration of ideas from the whole group and an organic development of human personalities,” Bora said.

“Dorian Grey” embodies the gothic spirit of the original text. By leaving questions unanswered to the audience, the production embraces the duality of supernatural versus psychological suspense.

Jessica Flock, who received her master’s in English from Gannon and who adapted the play, said that the process of writing the script influenced from the original text was similar to starting from scratch.

“In the novel, there is a great deal of flowery language and description that just wouldn’t translate to stage,” Jessica Flock said.

“The novel was originally published in serial format while Wilde was a new and struggling artist, so there are long stretches of narrative that are not necessarily linked to the plot.”

Jessica Flock said the Studio series at Dramashop bears an intensely collaborative nature.

“As it stands, the show is still being formed, now that it is in the hands of the actors and director, so even I don’t know exactly what the show will look like come opening night,” she said.

Zach Flock said, “Our Studio series is designed to showcase new, experimental works, unpublished or newly published plays that are maybe a bit more out there or rough around the edges.” Both “Dorian Grey” and “Gertrude, Queen of Denmark” comprise the Studio series, with the latter taking place in summer 2015.

Inverting the gender of the main characters does more to the themes of the narrative than might meet the eye, Manchester said.

“With our female Dorian, we can explore the themes of corruption, society life and the power of beauty as well as the fear of the loss of that power and the pervasive nature of gossip, all found in the original text, but now with a slightly different urgency,” Manchester said.

“I think it is interesting to explore the differences and similarities between a wealthy and beautiful young woman of today and a wealthy and beautiful young fop of the late 19th century.”

Bora leaves this question to audience members coming to see the show: “Dorian Grey? Maybe she’s dangerous, but maybe it’s all in your head.”

 

MICHAEL HAAS

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