NY Theater Review By Marcina Zaccaria
The Gravity Partners production of The Picture (of Dorian Gray) offers a fresh take on a memorable story at this year’s New York International Fringe Festival.
The Picture of Dorian Gray was written by Oscar Wilde in 1891. The Gravity Partners have spun together a show that is both innovative and faithful to the text. The company considers all of the characters in the book including Sibyl Vane, Lord Henry, and artist Basil Howard. The performers are intensely articulate, giving attention not only to the physical text that they have built, but to the entire landscape of the production.
In their devised work, The Gravity Partners ask us to see Dorian’s passion, his devotion, and his demise. Like stars spinning around orbits, the ensemble whirls chairs in the air and falls to the ground. They carefully consider beauty and cruelty, and the actors are largely unafraid to explore the darker themes of the piece. They perform the kinetic movement sequences without blinking.
Dressed in jeans and white t-shirts, they look like a classic Gap ad. The narrator provides an excellent framing device for the larger drama, and the cast follows the story thoroughly from point to point, carefully fleshing out the characters they inhabit. In terms of picture making on stage, The Gravity Partners are practiced and physically skilled. Rather than putting on masks, the cast uses different sets of sunglasses. Pages of the script are thrown to the ground as the words are spit out by the performers. It is a swift 70 minutes.
Though there is some singing in the piece, it is primarily a work of dance theater. Jamison Monella does a fine job of portraying the lead character in crisis. Stumbling across the stage at the end of the play, he searches for the words to define who he is and what he stands for. Excellent performances are also brought to the stage by Jessica Denison, Andrew Kilpatrick, Phil Oberholzer, and Alyssa Newberg. Original Music by Gabriel Gould is avant-garde.
They evoke Victorian England, but also use contemporary references to question their sensibilities, in terms of the beauty myth. In the performance, The Gravity Partners chooses to juxtapose passages from the Oscar Wilde novel with pop tunes like “Beautiful.” Taking inspiration from fashion, their gestures are carefully constructed, and the curvy forms that they select are deliberate.
Adapter and Director Neal Utterback previously worked on The Memory Play and Crisis, winner of the 2010 Ike and Julie Arnove PlayOffs. He was nominated for an Outstanding Production and Outstanding New Writing in Theatre at the 2009 Absolut® Dublin Gay Theatre Festival in Dublin, Ireland. The Picture (of Dorian Gray) also won The Greener Planet Award for outstanding eco-friendly and sustainable practices at the 2014 Planet Connections Theatre Festivity in NYC.
The18th annual New York International Fringe Festival is the largest multi-arts festival in North America. The multi-arts festival features drama, comedy, dance, opera, and poetry. The festival opened on August 8th and is running until August 24th. The Picture (or Dorian Gray) takes place at The Steve & Marie Sgouros Theatre, located at 115 MacDougal Street, between West 3rd Street and Minetta. Additional information can be found at www.FringeNYC.org.