Living Up to My Blue China 

LIVING UP TO MY BLUE CHINA, Cloud 42, at the Bailiwick Arts Center. In this two-act expansion of his 1989 hit bio-play Patrick Trettenero includes more snatches of Oscar Wilde's art (Salome, The Importance of Being Earnest, The Picture of Dorian Gray, the delightful children's tale The Selfish Giant, and his anguished prison confessional De Profundis) and life, notably his ambiguous relations with his much-tested wife Constance and outspoken mother and his final abashed asceticism. As in the earlier version, Wilde haunts the Reading jail: having fallen from pedestal to pillory, he's serving two years of hard labor for his homosexuality, which he himself exposed. Doggedly he conjures up his illustrious career and sordid trial, now gall and wormwood to this self-declared sinner.

Elegantly intoned by a six-member ensemble, this two-hour Blue China offers Oscar-ites more of his delicious wit; but unfortunately little effort has been made to integrate the proud, witty writer and the crushed prisoner. (The excerpt from Lady Windermere's Fan is a dull curio.) The constant that links the young and old Wildes (Perry DeFino and Marc Silvia) is the pose, a defensive dandyism that alternately attracts and exasperates.

Breathless with self-pity, Silvia's grandiloquent penitent is so emotionally rarefied it's hard to separate the suffering from the manufactured martyrdom. Sighing that "pain produces the beautiful soul" doesn't quite yield the desired result. And the humor in Lady Bracknell's interrogation scene seems rigidly artificial rather than supplely satiric. More notable are DeFino as the arrogant social lion, Nathan Rankin as the relentless, humorless prosecutor, and Patricia Kane's dignified Constance.

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