The Countess having logged its 300th performance at the Samuel Beckett Theatre Feb. 9, remains the longest-running new drama of the season, both on or Off-Broadway. The Victorian era scandal, written by Gregory Murphy and directed by Ludovica Villar-Hauser, traces the true-life love triangle and sensational Victorian scandal that ensued some 146 years ago when London society learned that England's art critic and trend setter, John Ruskin, was being sued for divorce by his charming and popular wife, Effie, on the grounds that their union had never been consummated. Ruskin's wife was instantly vilified, and it was later revealed that there was another man, John Everett Millais, a founder of the Pre-Raphaelite movement.
"Modern audiences have the benefit of being able to speculate on this matter with a much more well rounded set of assumptions," says director Villar Hauser. "There are many dimensions to this tale and what is interesting is that we can compare our reactions to those of the Victorians."
As reported earlier, the theatre is hosting a series of post performance discussions on Wednesday evenings through March 1. The theme includes Victorian era refreshments and a guest expert on one of the many subjects touch upon in the play -- women's issues, Victorian history, art and social politics. A question and answer period will be held at each discussion.
The first "Victorian Night" took place Dec. 8 and was attended by Ms. Tara Millais, a great-great granddaughter of Sir John Everett Millais and, it can now safely be revealed, Effie Millais.
The Samuel Beckett Theatre is located at 410 West 42nd Street. The regular ticket price of $45 applies to Victorian Nights (reception included). Call Ticketmaster at (212) 307-4100 for credit cards, or the box office at (212) 594-2826.
-- By Murdoch McBride