The Judas Kiss

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Photo: BAM Review
Do people – and plays – deserve a second chance? These thoughts ran rapidly through my mind while watching Neil Armfield’s often stunning production of David Hare’s “The Judas Kiss,” his biodrama about the great Irish dramatist Oscar Wilde, now at BAM’s Harvey Theatre.

The original 1998 Broadway production (with Liam Neeson as Wilde) was a surprising bore, but here, even in some of the talkiest sequences, it’s nearly impossible not to be riveted by the larger-than-life yet remarkably humanized portrayal of Wilde by an almost unrecognizable Rupert Everett. Padded and bewigged to resemble the stout writer, Everett captures Wilde’s wit, pride, self-delusion and self-destruction magnificently, lending both heft and pathos to Hare’s work.

It’s Wilde who passes up his second (and third) chances at happiness –or at least freedom – when given a chance to escape before being arrested in England on charges of “gross indecency” as a result of his relationship (possibly unconsummated) with the 19-age aristocrat Lord Alfred “Bosie” Douglas (British TV favorite Charlie Rowe, perfectly petulant and believably fresh-faced and firm-bodied).

Believing he has to save Bosie’s honor, he rejects the pleas of his best friend and former lover Robbie Ross (an excellent, heartbreaking Cal MacAnnich) and ultimately stands trial. Watching this all unfold are the hotel’s loyal and devoted staff (played superbly by Alister Cameron, Elliot Balchin, and Jessie Hills).

The show’s second, if less successful, act takes place after Wilde has been released from his horrid jail sentence and taken in by the penniless, no-more-mature Bosie, who is frittering away his time in a dilapidated house in Naples. Even though Bosie practically ignores Wilde, while sleeping with the locals (including a fisherman named Galileo, portrayed with remarkable dignity by Tom Colley, whose unabashed nudity is one of the many sights to behold here), Wilde once more sticks to his “principles.”

Indeed, he refuses to leave the young man, even after Robbie returns and explains that failure to vacate will force Wilde’s estranged wife Constance to cut him off completely. His actions, which are guided by “romance” and lust, place him as somewhere between a martyr and a fool, and “The Judas Kiss” somewhere between Greek tragedy and tragicomedy.
By Brian Scott Lipton

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Open/Close Dates
Opening 5/11/2016
Closing 6/12/2016

Theatre Info
BAM Harvey Theater
651 Fulton St
Neighborhood: Fort Greene
Brooklyn, NY 11217