Gross Indecency: The Three Trials of Oscar Wilde

By Moises Kaufmangross indecency by kaufman

Directed by Michael Rashid

Produced by Black Elephant Theatre

At Raven Theatre’s west stage

Campy bar room version of Wilde’s story trivializes its legacy

It is obvious by the way director Michael Rashid staged Moises Kaufman’s documentary styled play Gross indecency: The Three Trials of Oscar Wilde that he didn’t understand nor respect either Kaufman’s work or Oscar Wilde. Instead of mounting a dramatic stylized version of Gross Indecency, Rashid decided to place the play in a gay bar filled with swishy gays who decided to stop singing karaoke one night and act out the Kaufman’s Wilde play.

oscar wilde
Oscar Wilde

With gobs of camp, groping, men kissing men and spoken in speech patterns  that ran from mumbling, to running their words so quickly as to be inaudible to screaming –  this flamboyantly awful production is more of a gay boys acting out than a serious look at the trials, foibles and failures of Oscar Wilde.  A few minutes into the production, a woman stormed out in disgust with what she saw on stage, I only wished I could have followed her.

gross indecency by kaufman

Not only was the presentation too convoluted with seven of the nine players playing many parts with wildly mixed results, but the silliness and strange tone simply trivialized Wilde’s story. Director Rashid attempted to present Oscar Wilde as a kind of patron saint for gays when Wilde never accepted the concept of homosexuality. He was about art and beauty for their own sake.

gross indecency by kaufman

All the wasted energy and inept characters only sucked the power and drama out of Kaufman’s play. I venture to believe if Oscar Wilde was to see this show, he’d garnish his walking stick and strike this cast mightily due to their crassness and vulgar antics.  I believe this production not only decimates Wilde, it is a cliche-ridden presentation of gay men. They should be offended by this work.

It is bad camp, bad theatre and poorly acted (except Kevin Bishop and Casey Chapman who tried to make something substantial with of Wilde and Bosie).  Skip this one.

Not Recommended

Tom Williams

Talk theatre in Chicago podcast

Date Reviewed: October 17, 2010

For full show information, check out the Gross Indecency page at TheatreInChicago.

At Raven Theatre’s west stage, 6157 N Clark , chicago, IL, call 800-838-3006, tickets are $18 – $22, Thursdays thru Saturdays at 8:30 pm, Sundays at 3:30 pm, running time is 2 hours, 30 minutes with intermission, through November 14, 2010