“People switch partners as often as they change underwear.” A partygoer at Dorian’s home
“Beauty is a form of genius.” Lord Wotton
Dorian Gray, played wonderfully to perfection by the talented Michael D’Elia, is a sexy, charismatic and wealthy young man who has the world just right where he wants it. He lives by self-pleasure and always seeks new ways to thrill himself. Whether it’s enjoying a brand of never smoked before cigarettes or attempting to bed the most beautiful woman across the floor, he only sees his comfort and joy. No one else exists. Everyone one is just passing through in his world. Based on the 1890 novel, “The Picture of Dorian Gray” by Oscar Wilde (1854-1900) the story has been turned into numerous stage productions, movies and now, this literary marvel is a musical. “Dorian’s Descent” is now in the list of excellent depictions of the story.
The best interpretation of Dorian Gray’s story is the 1945 MGM film, “The Picture of Dorian Gray” with Hurd Hatfield (1917-1998) as the titular character. George Sanders plays his arrogant and aristocratic “friend”, Lord Henry Wotton. Actor Kelly Brighton does a wonderful job as the egotistical Wotton. Lowell Gilmore plays painter Basil Hallward, Donna Reed is Basil’s niece Gladys Hallward and Angela Lansbury as the lovesick Sibyl Vane. Basil apparently has a male crush on the self-absorbed rich boy. Basil paints Dorian’s portrait and creates a life-size twin. It is a masterpiece of the young man, standing tall, proud, and undeniably handsome. There are undertones of a bromance on behalf of Basil as he protects Dorian from evil forces. In this case, it’s Lord Wotton.
This show almost mirrors the film; also, it is the best-known portrayal. The audience learns that Dorian was raised and sheltered by his equally rich Uncle Kelso who leaves Dorian his estate after he dies. This is when Lord Wotton steps in as a horrible pseudo father to young Dorian exposing him to the corruption of the world and how to delight in it. Lord Wotton teaches Dorian how to enjoy using his impeccable etiquette, charm and good looks to entice. Wotton urges Gray to “give into your senses.” They begin to frequent the Zodiac Club, known for its high sexual inhibitions and where Dorian meets the talented actress Sybil Vane (the excellent Cassandra Nuss). They quickly fall in love and become engaged, despite her brother James’ (Tony Graham) disapproval. It seems that Dorian has everything he needs. Money, prestige the love and admiration of a good woman. But, of course, such happiness is always short-lived. After experiencing a tragedy, Dorian returns to his hedonistic ways. By the second act, D’Elia turns Dorian into a completely different type of man. Lord Wotton has done a wonderful job in de-constructing Dorian into a conceited, selfish fool. Then he meets and falls for Madeline Hallward. (Lauren Hill).
In between his mischievous behavior, Dorian notices how ugly his selfie portrait has become. At first, it began with lines under the eyes and cheeks. Then, the higher his escapades get the more sinister he becomes in the portrait. His one wish is for the portrait to be the recipient of his wrongdoings so, he can always look handsome as the picture ages. The portrait carries every bit of sin Dorian commits until he’s no longer recognizable. The portrait shows Dorian’s cruelty and vanity. When he meets Madeline, he gets a sense of hope that he can change. That is, until he discovers that Madeline is Basil’s niece whom he accidently stabbed.
D’Elia somehow pulled some germ of humanity way deep inside Dorian to give him some peace in the end. In his heyday, Dorian was selfish, cruel and lived in his own bubble. By the end, which is always too late, he sees the error of his ways looking right back at him.
“Dorian’s Descent” plays Fridays at 8 p.m. (June 27th, July 11th and 18th dark on July 4th). Saturdays at 8 p.m. (June 28 th, July 5th, 12th, 19th) and Sundays at 3 p.m. (June 29th; July 6th, 13th, and July 20th ) at The MET Theatre, located at 1089 N. Oxford Ave., Los Angeles. For ticket information, call (323) 802-4990or reserve online at www.doriansdescent.com.