The Ensemble Theatre Company of New York
Diversions & Delights
Kevin G Shinnick
Original Music by
Bobbie Lee Crow III
Incidental Piano by
Frank Scott Holley
Diversions & Delights is a one man play written by John Gay in which Oscar Wilde is presenting a lecture to a French audience in November, 1899.
For many years the show played to sell out houses throughout the world, starring Vincent Price in a tour deforce performance. Ironically the only city where if failed to find its proper audience was New York, where it played at the Eugene ONeill Theatre in April 1978. It was thought that it was too large a space for such an intimate show.
Since Price's great success, the play has rarely been performed and had not been seen in New York since 1978 until TETCNY's revival. THE ENSEMBLE THEATRE COMPANY OF NEW YORK was proud to have SOLD OUT most of it's run.
Craig Dudley, who portrays Oscar Wilde, recently returned from a successful season under the direction of Adrian Noble at the Old Globe in San Diego, other New York performances include the productions of Macbeth and Othello (Roundabout Theatre Company), The Miser (Bank Street Theatre), Ursulas Permanent (Kraine Theatre), Misalliance (Equity Library Theatre), the New York Fringe Festival, War and Peace (Symphony Space) and The Seagull (as a Guest Artist at Columbia University)He has also been seen throughout the United States in regional theatre productions such as Hamlet, A Tale of Two Cities, The French Lieutenants Woman, An Inspector Calls, The Hasty Heart, Cyrano de Bergerac, Racing Demon, Amadeus, Dial M for Murder, The Mystery of Irma Vep, Crown of Kings, Miracle, Twelfth Night, Noises Off, and the North American Premier of The Woman, as well as several productions of Camelot, essaying the role of King Arthur. On television, his credits include Love is a Many Splendored Thing, One Life to Live, Gimme a Break and Exiled. In addition he has co-produced a theatrical documentary about Sir Derek Jacobi, received a scholarship to the American Theatre Wing and graduated from the American Academy of Dramatic Arts.
Oscar Wilde, the great Irish author and poet, once the premiere wit of the late nineteenth century, was acclaimed for his plays such as Lady Windemeres Fan and The Importance of Being Ernest. His only published novel The Picture of Dorian Gray was a sensational hit while at the same time controversial.
The married father of two gained even more infamy when he was seen openly accompanying the much younger Lord Alfred Bruce Bosie Douglas much to the consternation of Lord Alfreds father John Douglas, the 9th Marquess of Queensberry. Lord Alfred, who, after many attempts of both physical confrontations and innuendo about the pairs un-manly goings on, finally left a calling card accusing Wilde of Posing as a Somdomite (sic). This led to a trial of libel, which resulted in Wilde not only losing his case, but being found guilty of Gross Indecency, and sentenced to two years of hard labor.
Wilde suffered great physical and psychological injuries, with his wealth wiped out by the trials, his wife divorcing him and forbidding him from ever having any contact with his two beloved sons again, his beloved mother dying while he was incarcerated, and all the abuse led to a nervous disorder as well as an injury to his ear which pained him the rest of his life. When released from prison, he wrote but one more work, the poem The Ballad of Reading Gaol which was published with his prisoner ID number C.3.3 as author. An exile, forced to leave England upon his release in May of 1897 found himself unable to write anymore.
Abandoned by most of his friends and addicted to Absinthe, a highly alcoholic drink, Wilde returned to the lecture circuit, where he had earlier achieved his first real successes.
Wilde died on November 30, 1900 of cerebral meningitis; his tomb just outside of Paris was paid for by his one true friend, Robbie Ross.
But perhaps the most fascinating of the recent Wildean revival was a recent run of John Gay’s rarely seen play Diversions & Delights, realized with impressive economy by the Ensemble Theatre Company of New York under director Kevin G. Shinnick.
Veteran actor Craig Dudley played the title role in the one-man show, which takes the form of a fictional “Night with Sebastian Melmouth” (Wilde’s pseudonym) in Paris in 1899.
In the first act, Wilde regaled the audience with a rhapsody of wit on art, social conventions, and yes, America, while sipping absinthe, the script incorporating aphorisms and quips that will be familiar to any Wilde fan.
The second act went darker, with Dudley’s Wilde succumbing to a kind of stagey PTSD over the horrors of his prison experience and his betrayal at the hands of his ex-lover “Bosie,” Lord Alfred Douglas.
REVIEWS from our Original Production of DIVERSIONS & DELIGHTS by JOHN GAY
Diversions & Delights
This Oscar Wilde biographical one-man play exposes the human elements of an artist who tried so hard to be above humanity.
Posted on March 11, 2015 by Daniel J. Lee, Critic
...Diversions & Delights tells the story of an older and wiser Oscar Wilde. Having recently been released from prison for his homosexual behavior, the traumatized and battered public figure has alienated his country and retreated to exile in Paris. In an attempt to make some quick money, he adopts the nomme de plume “Sebastian Melmouth” and provides a paying audience with a lecture that covers topics from art to love to death. Under the subtle and effective direction of Kevin G. Shinnick, this mounting focuses on exposing the human elements of a man who tries his best to be above humanity.
Gay is most successful at capturing Oscar Wilde’s unique sense of humor and incomparable aptitude for turning a phrase on its head. His extended monologue sequences draw expertly from Wilde’s famous texts such as The Picture of Dorian Gray and The Importance of Being Earnest, mimicking his particular circular argument structures. If nothing else, Gay’s Wilde is full of thoughts few people, if any at all, have spoken aloud: “Persons are better than principles…and persons with no principles are better than anything else” and “All art is useless…the only excuse for making a useless thing is that one admires it intensely” stick out as memorable quips. Gay keeps us on our toes throughout; by the time we have had ample time to comprehend one twisting witticism, he has already hurled three more at us.
...Ultimately, any one-man show is as strong or as weak as its, well, one man; I am thus happy to report that the California and New York stage veteran Craig Dudley delivers a varied, engaging portrait of a fascinating academic and socialite who is at once intolerably pompous and endearingly human. I could not tell you what the actual Wilde moved or sounded like, but Dudley’s strong character choices make any attempts at comparison unnecessary. His Wilde is bright and bold, with a booming baritone voice, a large emotional breadth, and a winningly wicked grin.
Peter Filichia / Kritzerland : "What’s most impressive about Dudley’s performance is that he makes these quotations sound as they were just uttered for the first time and not more than a century ago . (Director Kevin G. Shinnick obviously had something to do with that ,too )."
Audience Member Response
Kevin, I just saw Diversions and Delights and have to tell you how utterly affecting it is. The transformation of Oscar Wilde from dry wit to heartbroken lost soul is nothing short of miraculous. Craig Dudley made me almost forget that anyone had ever played the role before! His range of expression is absolutely astounding. Thank you so very much for allowing me to see this splendid production (very well directed, I MUST add!). How I wish the play could be seen by many, many others, especially as it's so incredibly timely! My one disappointment is that you and Mr. Dudley didn't sign the program ! I am a huge fan of both of you, especially after seeing this production! All my very best! Rick Squires