This solid, entertaining, and funny production of Oscar Wilde’s An Ideal Husband at Ontario’s Stratford Festival is nevertheless inert, old-fashioned, and often tone deaf.
Sometimes it feels like the Stratford Festival’s programming operates on autopilot. This season marks the return of several plays last performed about a decade ago — To Kill a Mockingbird (2007), The Music Man (2008), The Tempest (2010), Julius Caesar (2009), An Ideal Husband (2007) — as if the plays are being rolled out because it’s time rather than because someone has a vision to make the play feel relevant to today. Often, it seems like the reason is “because our older patrons find these shows entertaining.” That’s certainly the impression I got when comparing the audiences at this year’s competent, entertaining, yet irrelevant An Ideal Husband — mostly senior citizens — compared with Robert Lepage’s radical staging of Coriolanus — which skewed towards twenty- and thirtysomethings.'The greatest innovation seems to be colour-blind diversity casting: Harold Hill, Coriolanus, and Lady Chiltern are black; Julius Caesar and Prospero are played by women. Yet even some of these choices feel tone deaf.'Click To Tweet
The greatest innovation in these productions this year seems to be colour-blind diversity casting: Harold Hill, Coriolanus, and Lady Chiltern are black; Julius Caesar and Prospero are played by women. Yet even some of these choices end up feeling tone deaf. Robert Lepage’s Coriolanus (which we’ve discussed in detail on our 21st Folio Podcast) is interested in everything but the title character, and due to Lepage’s staging, the only death we see is that of a black man doing the noble thing and dying for Rome’s sins.