My number of theater visits is much, much lower than I ever anticipated coming to college. In fact, it’s been a big, fat zero since I arrived at Gannon University. This is a shame for many reasons, primarily because we have one of the best theater departments in the area. Additionally, theater is something I was always interested in but never explored.
This is why I was so excited to cover Dramashop’s latest production, a “Picture of Dorian Gray” remake written by Jess Flock and directed by Alaina Manchester. Anyone who knows anything about the show’s source material knows that it was timed specifically for people like me, who suffer from PHD (Post Halloween Depression). (It’s real. Look it up. Or don’t, because I definitely made it up.)
“Dorian Grey” – note the spelling – tells the story of photographer Baz (Adele Stewart) and our titular character (Jessica Annunziata) a beautiful pseudo-hermit who pays Baz for several self-portraits/prints. When one in particular strikes the eyes of Baz, as well as her boss, Whit (Beau Bora), the two try convincing Grey to allow them to keep this particular print to sell later at all three’s benefit.
Grey declines, but keeps Baz around to develop an almost obsessive relationship with her. It is at this point that Annunziata delivers a mesmerizing monologue that may have been the most impressive moment of the night. The ever-changing lighting and way she drifts throughout the stage space is almost hypnotic.
Baz doesn’t hear from Dorian is about two weeks, and when she finally does, she soon learns that Grey is now engaged to a bumbling actor, Paul (Matthew Crays). Baz is baffled, especially when Grey throws a fit over Paul’s longing to leave the theater. Baz reveals that her mother is ill and that she may miss Dorian and Paul’s wedding, which they decide to postpone until Baz’s return.
Once Baz does return – nearly a year later, hearing nothing from Dorian in that time – she soon learns from Whit that acquaintances of Grey’s, including Paul, have been turning up dead around their small town.
Baz refuses to take warning, forcing Whit to take matters into his own hands and visit the disillusioned Grey to ask her to stay away from Baz. A recovering addict, Whit is offered a single drink from Grey, which ends up being poisoned as she quickly carries him upstairs, where she’s strangely held onto Baz’s favorite print.
When Baz finally catches on to what’s really happening around town, she confronts Grey and a fight ensues, ultimately ending in Baz’s murder. Unable to live with herself, Grey stabs the photo with a knife, causing her to collapse and reveal that it has been the photo all along that’s provided her with her youth and beauty.
It’s a gruesome, dark and deeply humorous show that proves the product of veteran show runners. From the production’s lighting to the way the cast’s performances, “Dorian Grey” was the perfect introduction to a fantastic local art form.