Curtains opened Oct. 4 for Azusa Pacific theater’s first showing of Oscar Wilde’s “An Ideal Husband,” directed by Erin Gaw. The cast filled the stage with British accents, handheld fans and a plethora of fluffy dresses for the the play, which runs until Oct. 13.
The show utilizes comedy, mystery and drama to examine the expectations behind courtship and marriage.
“Everyone is either hunting for husbands, or hiding from them,” said fictional Mrs. Cheveley, played by senior bachelor’s of fine arts stage and screen acting major Renna Nightingale.
Playing upon the idea of finding perfect male partners, who are placed on “enormous pedestals,” the characters wrestle with several types of relationships. The marriage between newlyweds Lady Gertrude Chiltern, played by senior BFA stage and screen acting major Sarah Byrne, and Sir Robert Chiltern, represented by senior BFA student and stage and screen acting major Scott Kuiper, is the focus.
“In watching the play, I am praying that the audience will not only have a good time watching a comedy, but begin to reflect on the absurdity of creating an ideal out of anyone, rather than recognizing how truly human we all are,” said senior BFA stage and screen acting major Francesca Fromang, who plays Countess Basildon and Jane.
The play explores the idea of finding a husband with a “brilliant future” and disregarding men who have “shameful” pasts. Cast members said the play can teach audiences about the importance of grace and forgiveness.
“I believe it is completely relevant to our APU community,” Nightingale said. “A large part of our environment revolves around dating in search of the perfect mate, and hoping for a ‘ring by spring.’ This story has so much to say about idolatry, honesty and love.”
Wilde’s play not only addresses relationship stereotypes but challenges audiences to examine whether their personal expectations are unrealistic.
“The show tackles some big problems rooted in all of us, but does so in a fun and clever way. It is a hilarious show, full of Wilde’s wit and charm,” Fromang said.
Characters such as Miss Mabel Chiltern, played by junior BFA student Morgan Reynolds, and Lord Arthur Goring, played by senior BFA student Denver Danyla, provid comedic relief, and the audience responded during the premiere with consistent laughter and applause.
Fromang noted how the society standards of 1913, the play’s setting, contrast with the norms of 2013, but that the cast still managed to embody the differences in mannerisms and linguistics.
Gaw, the director, said the cast grappled with getting used to the language, but the roles became relatable, of which she was proud.
“I can’t imagine trying to hold an accent for that long. They did amazing,” said senior business major Chase Traud, who attended the premiere.
According to Fromang, the cast studied the high English society, worked with a dialect coach, learned how to properly serve tea and figured out how to breathe in corsets.
As the villain of the story, Nightingale was fascinated by her role as Mrs. Cheveley, who stirred up anger and resentment in a number of the characters.
“I hope to represent a courageous, real woman with insecurities and imperfections, whose journey will act as a cautionary tale. … And I hope I won’t trip,” Nightingale said.
The cast hopes to continue perfecting the characters in future showings and to learn something new with each performance.
“Every single night … we’re figuring things out as we go, discovering new moments and finding different things,” Kuiper said. “And that’s as an actor, what you crave: these new moments.”
Students can purchase tickets for $2.50 each for showings on Oct. 10-13.