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Play gives glimpse of Wilde's life

Director Eugene Douglas and his cast breathe vibrant life into Theatre X's production of Moises Kaufman's "Gross Indecency."

"Gross Indecency: The Three Trials of Oscar Wilde" traces Wilde's tangles with Victorian courts of law. Kaufman's script draws on the memoirs of Wilde's attorney, Wilde and the numerous newspaper accounts of the trial during the 19th century.

With so much recitation and historical detail, the play could easily fall flat in lesser hands. Douglas and his superb cast, however, successfully take the necessary risks and turn in a well-interpreted dramatic feast. "Gross Indecency" explores the social and personal impact of Oscar Wilde's trials for libel and gross indecency, or homosexual behavior.

The show opens with the Marques Queensbury, the father of Wilde's lover, accusing the famous author of sodomy. Wilde sues the Marques for libel, but during the libel trial evidence comes forth that proves Wilde to be a homosexual.

Wilde is then tried for "gross indecency," a new law that prohibited homosexual behavior in England. Stark realism, reminiscent of Brecht, rules the play. The brown, orange and blue-hued set evokes the atmosphere of both Wilde's artistry and a sterile Victorian courtroom.

The lighting is uncomplicated and used to enhance the onstage action. Even the Victorian era costumes follow the rules of realism and simplicity. Not a thread is out of place or overdone. Oscar Wilde and the courtroom players are shown much as they were, and not as the caricatures of a playwright.

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Matthew Andrade gives a remarkable performance as the title character. Though he is confined to a witness stand in the middle of the set throughout the play, Andrade manages to live even the stories he must recite for the jury in the moment. Andrade displays a fine grasp of his character's emotions and uses them well, artfully turning from flippant to teary to angry. "Gross Indecency" is worth seeing, if only to watch the spirit of Oscar Wilde inhabit Andrade's form.

Rafael Gallegos is in his element as Wilde's flamboyant attorney Edward Clark. Gallegos skillfully navigates his character between realism and an appropriate level of eccentric Victorian style. Particularly notable is Gallegos' use of voice and body. Not a movement is out of place, even throughout Clark's extended courtroom arguments. His vocal style is of equal precision and quality. No tone is left to chance, and Gallegos is consistent with Clark's accent.

Josh Hunt is the play's showstopper as Wilde's young lover, Sir Alfred Douglas. Hunt plays the boyishly passionate Douglas to perfection. He uses his vocal range to articulate Douglas' feelings, not to mention the well-timed physicality of his body movements. All of Hunt's scenes with Andrade are memorable and constitute some of the best work in "Gross Indecency."

Eugene Douglas' direction is nothing short of fantastic, and the cast is a well-oiled machine. Each of the actors clearly know their place and work in harmony with the rest of the cast. The energy the cast creates together is half of the play's success.

"Gross Indecency" is one of the finest shows to grace Theatre X in recent memory. It may be one of the most carefully crafted shows ever staged in Albuquerque by a local theater company.

"Gross Indecency" runs from Thursday through Sunday, April 14. Tickets are $7 and may be purchased at the UNM Box Office.

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