Moises Kaufman's acclaimed drama, Gross Indecency: The Three Trials of Oscar Wilde, first opened at Off-Off-Broadway's Greenwich House Theatre on Barrow St., a year ago today, Feb. 27. That mounting ran to May 4. Fueled by an unqualified rave by the New York Times' Ben Brantley, Moises Kaufman's Oscar Wilde deconstruction made the jump to Off Broadway's Minetta Lane Theatre, back on June 5 (previews began May 20). It's been there ever since.
Produced by Tectonic Theatre Project, Inc. (TTP), Gross Indecency follows "the arrest, judgment and sentencing of the most celebrated playwright of his time." Directed by author Kaufman, the drama makes use of original transcripts and letters, as well as biographical material on Wilde.
Recently, two other productions of the play have opened. In San Francisco's Theatre on the Square, Gross Indecency stars Tom Nelis as Wilde, flanked by Joey Collins, James Asher, Sheffield Chastain, Michael Fitzpatrick, Jonathan Haugen, Remi Sandri, Michael Santo and Gregory Ivan Smith. Produced by Leonard Soloway, Chase Mishkin and Jonahthan Reinis, the SF staging began previews Nov. 21, 1997 and opened Dec. 2, 1997.
In Los Angeles, the show features original New York star Michael Emerson as Oscar. Also in the cast are J. Todd Adams, Mitchell Anderson, Eddie Bowz, Mike Doyle, Benjamin Livinston, Hal Robinson, Simon Templeman an Geraint Wyn Davies. The Mark Taper Forum mounting began previews Feb. 8 and opened Feb. 19.
The Importance Of Being Earnest may be a staple of theatres around the world, and an An Ideal Husband and Salome have both had recent, star-studded Broadway productions, but in his day, legendary wit Oscar Wilde wasn't quite so well accepted. He was sentenced to two years' hard labor in an English prison for "gross indecency with male persons" -- in other words, the crime of homosexuality. Upon his release, he moved to France and died of meningitis three years later. Viewers who think Wilde was simply arrested and tried for being gay in England might be surprised at the full story told here: Wilde first sued Lord Queensberry for defamation of character, but the suit backfired, with Wilde becoming the victim of his own pride -- and England's hypocritical legal system.
Appearing in the New York Gross Indecency are Edward Hibbert (TV's "Frasier;" Jeffrey) as Wilde, Bill Dawes, Trevor Anthony, Robert Blumenfeld, Gordon Brode, James Coyle, Andy Paris, Greg Pierotti and Greg Steinbruner. Designers are Sarah Lambert (set), Kitty Leech (costumes), and Betsy Adams (lighting).
According to production spokesperson Kevin McAnarney, playwright Kaufman has received more than a half dozen movie offers despite the fact that two Oscar Wilde movies are already in the pipeline. Regardless of the play's cinematic future, McAnarney predicts a long afterlife for Gross Indecency on the regional theatre circuit, as representatives from a number of major theatres have been making the trek to Minetta Lane to scout out the production."
TTP, a non-profit group, specializess in plays that "explore theatrical language and form." Their last show, Franz Xaver Kroetz's The Nest (1994), directed by Kaufman, was named "one of the ten best productions of the season" by the Village Voice. (Tectonics is the science or art of construction and also concerns faults and deformations of the earth's crust.)
For tickets ($29.50-$45) and information on Gross Indecency - The Three Trials Of Oscar Wilde at the Minetta Lane Theatre in NYC, call (212) 420-8000.
-- By David Lefkowitz