ALBANY -- In 2013 I reviewed a show at Curtain Call Theatre called “Abigail/1702,” by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, and I said, “The two-act play is an exploration of guilt and redemption.” Indeed, that show actually had the Devil in it, and if playwright Aguirre-Sacasa's “The Picture of Dorian Gray” doesn’t have an on-stage Old Scratch, his handiwork is everywhere evident, thanks to Creative License’s rip-roaring production of a somewhat creepy script.
Why put on this play, a modern-day adaptation of Oscar Wilde’s story of a beautiful young college student, Dorian (Ian LaChance), who wishes to be young forever and let his aging take place in the portrait painted by his chum, Basil (Nick Bosanko)?
Director Aaron Holbritter says in his director’s notes, “For [co-producer] Casey Polomaine and me ... the story is just fun.” Like Gothic fun. Which is not to say that there aren’t other themes, of course, having to do with desire, beauty, friendship, mortality, ego, etc., but you can have a good time simply appreciating the macabre nature of the story.
And the fact is it’s never entirely clear what motivates Dorian to make his first awful blunder, with Sybil (Lucy Miller). But once he has gotten a whiff of his own immortality and his ability to live a hedonistic life with impunity, it’s an easy slide into other dastardly deeds.
While Act 1 is a humdinger, the Act 2 writing is weak, changing locales and time periods through narration -- an unsatisfying technique, in my opinion. But the artistry of Nick Nealon (lighting), Beth Ruman (costumes), Larissa Grossbeck (set: large picture frames and a blood-red curtain upstage), and sound (an unnerving underscore by Holbritter) holds our attention as Dorian continues his descent into evil and madness.
Holbritter keeps the pace up, even through the numerous scene changes. He’s got a thoroughly engaged cast. Sean Baldwin, Evan Jones, and Jessie Rosenthal ably play their multiple parts. Brigitta Giulianelli scores as the no-nonsense, wry Victoria Frost. To Dorian’s college friend, Henry Wotton, fall most of the play’s lines about art theory and human behavior, and Steve Maggio credibly shoulders the burden.
As two of Dorian’s other college pals, Isaac Newberry imbues the sybaritic and aptly coiffed Alan with energy and wit; and Nick Bosanko gives a deeply touching portrayal of lovelorn Basil, the passionate artist whose painting of Dorian sets the plot’s wheels in motion.
Miller is moving as Sybil in Act 1. Then, in Act 2 as Sybil’s teenaged, aggressive doppelganger, Karen, she is utterly poignant. Miller and LaChance work together splendidly and, for his part, the handsome LaChance completely conveys Dorian’s assured manner and -- later -- his growing bewilderment, disintegration and guilt.
We spoke with Times Union critic Steve Barnes at intermission, during which we snacked on blood oranges (a clever touch!) and commented on the youth of the crowd. Creative License has evidently done some effective outreach to the next generation of theatergoers, but this vivid production should satisfy audiences of any age.
'The Picture of Dorian Gray'
WHERE: Creative License, Albany Barn, 56 Second St., Albany
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays through April 1
HOW MUCH: $15
MORE INFO: creativelicenseonline.com