The Picture of Dorian Gray

Sep 12 – Nov 2, 2008
EXTENDED through November 16, 2008!!!

“Enthralling, with a crystal-clear, ideally structured adaptation… thrilling, sinuously choreographed direction… and a remarkably fleet, stylish cast.”  –Hedy Weiss, Chicago Sun-Times

“Lifeline Theatre has subtly created a modern classic of their very own”  –Brian Kirst, Chicago Free Press

“The performances are uniformly marvelous… Lifeline’s production is one temptation that should not be resisted.”  –Catey Sullivan, Windy City Times

“Director Kevin Theis makes an entertaining masterpiece out of Robert Kauzlaric’s theatrically thrilling adaptation.”  –Venus Zarris, Chicago Stage Review

Photo by Lindsay Schlesser

What would you do if you had the freedom to indulge your every dark desire? A supernatural power grants Dorian Gray eternal youth and beauty. As the years pass and his outward form remains unmarred, his soul wallows in pride and sin, dragging the lives of everyone he touches into the depths of depravity. Oscar Wilde’s masterpiece reveals that even the bravest among us are afraid to face what lies within.

Recommended for mature audiences only.

A world premiere based on the haunting classic by Oscar Wilde
Adapted by Robert Kauzlaric
Directed by Kevin Theis

  • Don Bender (Basil Hallward, Elder)

    Don returns to Lifeline where he appeared as Don Alejandro Vega in the initial run of The Mark of Zorro. He has acted in Chicago for the past 25 years, including work with Writers Theatre, Next Theatre, Silk Road, City Lit, Stage Left, The Hypocrites, Shakespeare’s Motley Crew, Signal Ensemble and many others.

  • Adam Breske (James Vane, Younger)

    Adam is proud to be making his first appearance in a Lifeline production. His previous Chicago credits include Much Ado About Nothing for Oak Park Festival Theatre, Date Night for Adjusted Gratuity, and Earl the Vampirefor Thunder and Lightning Theatre Ensemble. Non-Chicago credits include the east coast tour of Pinocchio with the Hampstead Players, A Numberwith the Virginia Choices and Challenges Symposium, and Fuddy Meers and Proof with the Blacksburg Summer Arts Festival.

  • John Ferrick (Alan Campbell, Elder)

    John returns to Lifeline for his fifth show – he has appeared in The Two TowersThe Return of the KingThe Killer AngelsTalking It Over, and most recently The Mark of Zorro. An ensemble member of Strawdog Theatre, he was last seen in their world premiere of Brett Neveau’s musical, Old Town, and will be leading the charge in their upcoming Spring production of Red Noses, a comedy about the black plague! Some other theatres John has performed with include: Goodman, Court, Eclipse, Famous Door, About Face, National Jewish, Roadworks, and many others.

  • Kyle A. Gibson (Alan Campbell, Younger)

    Kyle is a lifelong Chicagoan and is thrilled to be making his Lifeline Theatre debut with such a talented group of folks. A graduate of The Theatre School at DePaul University, Kyle has appeared in productions at Vittum Theatre, The Actors Gymnasium, Big Brother, and most recently, Disney’s Aladdin with Emerald City Theatre. He has also appeared in numerous industrial films and can be seen as a doctor in the Step In My Shoes series at children’s museums across the country.

  • Paul S. Holmquist (Lord Henry Wotton, Younger)

    Paul returns to the Lifeline stage after appearing in Strong Poison and The Talisman Ring and directing The Island of Dr. Moreau (winner of 5 Non-Equity Jeffs including Best Production-Play). He is thrilled to work with this incredible cast and crew, and again with brilliant adaptor Robert Kauzlaric. Paul is a Lifeline Ensemble member and also an artistic associate of the Griffin Theatre where he last acted in Journey’s End and directed The Constant Wife. Around town, he’s worked with Timeline, Shattered Globe, and the Factory among others. Coming soon, Paul will direct Flight of the Dodo for Lifeline’s KidSeries, The Robber Bride Groom for the Griffin and Busman’s Honeymoon for Lifeline’s Mainstage.

  • Melissa Nedell (Sibyl Vane)

    Melissa is very excited to be making her first appearance with Lifeline Theatre. She was last seen in Theatre Wit’s production of Feydeau Si Deau. Other credits include The SeagullBook Of DaysA Few Good Men, and Dancing at Lughnasa, all with Raven Theatre; the world premiere production of The (W)hole Thing with Stage Left; as well as work with Steppenwolf Theatre and Collaboraction Theatre. She has also worked on numerous commercials, industrials, independent films and voice-overs in and outside Chicago. Melissa holds a BFA in Acting from The University of Connecticut and an MFA in Acting from Indiana University.

  • Sean Sinitski (Lord Henry Wotton, Elder)

    Sean was a member of the late Defiant Theatre where he performed such roles as Hamlet, Macduff, Marcus Andronicus and a guy that got his thumb stolen in Action Movie – The Play! Other Chicago credits include: Theatre MIR – The Prisoner’s Dilemma; Silk Road – Back of the Throat; Strawdog – Shylock in The Merchant of VeniceDetective Story; Chicago Shakespeare – Winters Tale; Writers Theater – The Doctor’s Dilemma; Next Theater – Accidental Death of an AnarchistThe Love Song of J. Robert Oppenheimer; Hypocrites – Henry VBalm and Gilead; Walkabout Theater – Human Interest Story; Stage Left – Fellow Travelers; Famous Door – The Living.

  • David Skvarla (James Vane, Elder)

    David is happy to be back at Lifeline having appeared as Winston Niles Rumfoord in their production of Kurt Vonnegut’s The Sirens of Titan. Most recently, Dave co-fight-directed, armed, and played Calico Jack Rackham for Back Stage Theatre’s Bloody Bess, fight directed Infamous Commonwealth’s Lewis and Clarke Reach the Euphrates, and played Morris Fishman aka Billy Santucci in Factory Theatre’s Dirty Diamonds. Dave has also had the honor to perform with Shaw Chicago, Oak Park Festival Theatre, Mary-Arrchie, Defiant, Open Eye, Open Cage, the Hypocrites, Rising Moon, Hope and Non-things, Big Game, SMC, and is the Artistic Director of Careening Theatre.

  • Aaron Snook (Basil Hallward, Younger)

    Aaron returns to Lifeline where he was last seen as the Hyena-Swine Man in The Island of Dr. Moreau. His Chicago credits include Fool for LoveHamletCloserShe Stoops to ConquerSeascape (Jeff Citation nomination), Waiting for GodotCatch-22, and Much Ado About Nothingfor Signal Ensemble; The Devil Inside for the RBP; and Only the Sound for Chicago Dramatists. He has also directed The Dumbwaiter and The Birthday Party for Signal. He is a member of Signal Ensemble and Associate Artist with Chicago Dramatists. Aaron has a double major in English and drama from Duke University and studied at ACT in San Francisco.

  • Nick Vidal (Dorian Gray)

    Nick is thrilled to be in his first Lifeline production. Previous credits include Lysander in A Midsummer Night’s Dream with Arts Lane, Peredur in The Pendragon with Riddlemark, and Sylvestro in Scapino at New American Theater.

  • Anthony DiNicola (Understudy)

    Anthony is proud to be working with Lifeline for the very first time. He was previously seen in Chicago in Early Times with Chicago Script Works, and a staged reading of Bill Norris’ new play Hunting in Dreams/R.E.M with the Tin Fish Theatre Company. Last summer he was down at the Piccolo Spoleto Festival in Charleston, South Carolina, doing Samurai 7.0 with the Beau Jest Moving Theatre CompanyAt Bowdoin College he appeared in Angels in America: Millenium ApproachesOthelloEnemy of the People, and Waiting for Godot.

  • Josh Nordmark (Understudy)

    Josh is a recent graduate of Illinois State University, Josh received his B.S. in Acting with a minor in Music. He was last seen in the world premier of Yes, This Really Happened To Me. Previous credits include: A Christmas Carol (Fred), West Side Story (Tony) and Romeo and Juliet (Friar Lawrence).

  • Laurel Schroeder (Understudy)

    Laurel is excited to be working with Lifeline for the first time. She received a BA in theatre from Colorado State University and spent a year abroad in London studying classical acting, vocal technique, and playwriting. Previous roles include Helena in Midsummer Night’s Dream, Sara in Stop Kiss, Corie Bratter in Barefoot in the Park, and Lucy in Chemically Imbalanced Comedy’s production of Mr. Marmalade.

  • Robert Tobin (Understudy)

    Robert has worked with a number of different theatres in Chicago (Astonrep, RedTwist, A Sense of Urgency, Pegasus, A Red Orchid), Los Angeles (MET Theatre, Sacred Fools, The Complex, etc.) and regionally with the Utah Shakespearean Festival and Colorado Shakespeare Festival. Along with various film and television work, he also teaches Shakespeare and stage combat to young adults from time to time.

  • Robert Kauzlaric (Adaptor)

    Robert is a Lifeline ensemble member. His adaptation of The Island of Dr. Moreau received five Non-Equity Joseph Jefferson Awards, including Best Production-Play and New Adaptation, and is published by Playscripts. His adaptation of The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs! will be produced in Illinois, Minnesota, Missouri, Georgia, North Carolina and California in 2008/09. Robert has appeared as an actor in ten Lifeline productions, most recently The Mark of Zorro and A Room with a View, and served as Assistant Director for Johnny Tremain.

  • Kevin Theis (Director)

    Kevin returns to Lifeline for a third time as a director, having previously staged The Silver Chair and The Sirens of Titan. In the past year, he worked both on stage and off, directing The Hound of the Baskervilles at City Lit and Robin Hood for the Oak Park Festival Theatre and performing in A Christmas Carol at the Goodman Theatre, Feydeau-Si-Deau with Theatre Wit and as Benedick in Much Ado About Nothing at the Oak Park Festival. Previous directing credits include work with, among others, Seanachaí Theatre (where he is an ensemble member), greasy joan & co., Buffalo Theatre Ensemble, Circus Tortellini and CT20 Ensemble. He has received three Jeff nominations for his directing work. He is also a founding member of Shanghai Low Theatricals, a not-for-profit company devoted to developing works for the stage.

  • Kimberly Percell (Stage Manager)

    Kimberly is happy to be working at Lifeline Theatre again on another gore-filled show! Originally from Oklahoma, she has stage managed The Resistible Rise of Arturo UiThe Island of Dr. Moreau and Journey’s Endsince moving to Chicago in 2007. She would like to thank her husband, Nate, and her family for their love and support.

  • Charlie Athanas (Portrait Designer)

    Charlie is the Creative Director and Co-Owner of The Devil’s Candy Store, Inc. and a WildClaw Theatre company member. He has been creating graphics for Chicago theater since 1981 for such plays as Clive Barker’s In The Flesh, William Gibson’s Burning Chrome, and the latest, Arthur Machen’s The Great God Pan. Highlights from his other careers include: concept design work for the band U2’s interactive project, U2i; artist on the first computer-generated comic book, SHATTER; animated John Madden Football II; co-designed Shadow President, the first computer game simulation to be reviewed by The Economist; built an exact replica of Jimi Hendrix’s Stratocaster; and consulted with Paul Allen’s Silicon Valley thinktank, Interval Research Corporation. Only one of these things is not true.

  • Tom Burch (Scenic Designer)

    Tom is thrilled to return to Lifeline where previous designs include The Island of Dr. Moreau (Jeff nomination), The ShadowThe Sirens of Titan, and Strong Poison (After Dark Award). Other Chicago credits include Gas for Less and Talking Pictures for Goodman; touring productions of Romeo and JulietTaming of the ShrewMacbeth, and Comedy of Errors for Chicago Shakespeare; The Lady With All the AnswersBad DatesRed Herring, and The Good War at Northlight. He’s the recipient of 2 After Dark Awards, a Jeff Citation (for Pyewacket’s Misery) and the Michael Maggio Emerging Designer Award. Regional credits include shows at Williamstown Theatre Festival, Actors Theatre of Louisville and Peninsula Players, among others. He also teaches at the University of Chicago. His online portfolio is at

  • Kevin D. Gawley (Lighting Designer)

    Kevin has been an ensemble member of Lifeline Theatre since 2001. As a designer at Lifeline Theatre, Kevin won non-equity Jeff Awards for his designs of last season’s production of The Island of Dr. Moreau and Jane Eyre, received the After Dark Award for his design of Strong Poison, and was Jeff nominated for Gaudy Night. As a freelance lighting/scenic designer in Chicago, Kevin’s work has appeared in numerous productions at the Bailiwick, Organic, Porchlight, OperaModa, Blindfaith, Theatre on the Lake, Metropolis, StoreFront, Loyola University Chicago, Revels Chicago, Midwest Jewish and at the North Carolina Shakespeare Festival theatres. Kevin is the Lighting and Scenic design Assistant Professor at the University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire and has taught Lighting Design and Technology courses previously at Loyola University Chicago and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Kevin holds an MFA and BFA in Lighting Design from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and an MBA in Finance from DePaul University.

  • Andy Hansen (Original Music and Sound Design)

    Andy is pleased to be making his Lifeline debut and to be working again with director Kevin Theis. In Chicago, he has designed for Writer’s Theatre, Northlight, Apple Tree, Shattered Globe, Babes With Blades, Remy Bumppo, Caffeine, greasy joan, The Gift, Eclipse, The Steppenwolf, The Goodman, and at TimeLine Theatre where he is an Associate Artist. Upcoming projects include A House With No Walls at TimeLine and Old Glory at Writer’s Theatre.

  • Branimira Ivanova (Costume Designer)

    Branimira is a graduate of the University of Connecticut – MFA Costume Design and the International Academy of Design and Technology- BFA in Fashion Design. The Picture of Dorian Gray is her third collaboration with Lifeline Theatre after recently designing The Mark of Zorro and Talking it Over. She has worked with Citylit Theare, Emerald City Theatre, The Gift Theatre, Pegasus Players, Infamous Commonwealth Theatre, Bailiwick Repertory, Black Sheep Productions, and dance companies- Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, Gus Giordano Jazz Dance, Breakbone Dance Company and Thodos Dance Company. Out of state she has worked with Connecticut Repertory Theatre, Berkshire Theatre Festival (MA) and Miniature Theatre of Chester (MA). Branimira is a recipient of Certificate for Excellence in Theatre Design by USITT in 2007. Her work was part of the United States National Exhibit at the Prague Quadrennial World Stage Expo in Prague 2007.

  • R&D Choreography (Violence Designers)

    Richard Gilbert and David Gregory form the violence design partnership of R&D Choreography. They are thrilled to be working with Lifeline again, having designed violence for The Island of Dr. MoreauThe Piano TunerAround the World in 80 DaysTrust Me On ThisThe Silver Chair and Scary Home Companion. R&D was founded for the purpose of improving the power and effectiveness of Chicago area theatre through the art of violence design. They have worked with dozens of area theatres, including About Face, Apple Tree, ATC, Azusa, Bailiwick, Blindfaith, Circle, First Folio, Griffin, National Pastime,New American Theatre, Piven, Profiles, Shakespeare’s Motley Crew, and Trapdoor.

  • Jenniffer Thusing (Props Designer)

    Jenniffer is thrilled to be returning to Lifeline after designing props for last season’s Half Magic. Her work as a props designer will be seen later this season for Busman’s Honeymoon. Jenniffer serves as the resident props designer for Northbrook Theatre and as this season’s props designer for Chicago Dramatists. Her work as props designer has also been seen at Next Theatre, Noble Fool, Writers, and Drury Lane Oak Brook. She is the resident stage manager for Northbrook Theatre for Young Audiences. Jenniffer also stage manages Flanagan’s WakeLate Nite Catechism, and Put the Nuns in

  • Elise Kauzlaric (Dialect Coach)

    Elise is a member of Lifeline’s artistic ensemble and most recently appeared on the MainStage in Talking it Over. She has coached dialects for Lifeline’s productions of The Mark of ZorroThe Island of Dr. MoreauThe Piano TunerJohnny TremainThe Killer AngelsThe Shadow and Trust Me on This. Other dialect coaching projects include Angels in AmericaEquusand Henry V (the Hypocrites); Wintertime (Reverie) and A Christmas CarolTo Kill a Mocking Bird and Cabaret (Metropolis Theatre).

  • Amy Sobotta (Costume Assistant)

    Amy is working at Lifeline for the first time as a costume assistant although she has worked at Lifeline before as box office and house management staff and as a photographer for the past three seasons. She has been working as a costume assistant for Cybele Moon for the past year on SMART at the Side Project and Requiem for a Heavyweight at Shattered Globe Theatre.

From the Chicago Sun-Times

Wilde’s tale of Faustian deal is bargain at Lifeline
September 24, 2008
By Hedy Weiss

Highly Recommended

“The Picture of Dorian Gray” is Oscar Wilde’s Faustian tale of a beautiful young man in Edwardian high society who makes a bargain with the devil. After exchanging his soul for the promise of eternal youth and unfettered experience, Dorian embarks on a life of total narcissism and depravity, leaving all those who love or befriend him either broken or dead, and realizing far too late he also has destroyed himself.

Of course with Wilde you can be sure the aphorisms fly with the speed of light, providing witty (and withering) commentary on everything from love, marriage, power and truth to art and death. But beneath the slashing brilliance and cynicism of Wilde’s observations there also is a deep ruefulness and pain that can catch you by surprise.

Lifeline Theatre’s new production of “Dorian Gray” is enthralling, with a crystal-clear, ideally structured adaptation by Robert Kauzlaric; thrilling, sinuously choreographed direction by Kevin Theis, a gilt-edged black set by Tom Burch, and a remarkably fleet, stylish cast.

Of course without a perfect Dorian — a man whose beauty is both distancing and magnetic, and whose odd emotional detachment creates an ideal self-reflective surface for the desires of others — the story cannot work. With his graceful figure, and a face that hints of the young Rudolf Nureyev and Mick Jagger, actor Nick Vidal not only is physically perfect for the role, but has tapped into the strange mix of charisma and blankness essential to carrying it off. His performance could not be more alluring or assured. And he is surrounded by a brilliant ensemble.

The conceit in Wilde’s tale is that Dorian never grows visibly older. Instead, the scars on his soul pile up on the surface of the grand portrait (a sensational canvas by Charlie Athanas) painted in his most golden young manhood. Those characters who interact with Dorian over the years DO age, and are double-cast.

Particularly seductive and satanic is Wilde’s alter ego, the married bisexual aristocrat Lord Henry Wotton (Paul S. Holmquist and Sean Sinitski are riveting as the younger and older man, respectively). The adoring painter, Basil, is deftly limned by Aaron Snook and Don Bender, while Kyle A. Gibson and John Ferrick as Dorian’s early love, Alan. Melissa Nedell is touching as the poor, vulnerable actress Dorian brutally abandons in this haunting cautionary tale.



From Centerstage

September 26, 2008
By Colin Douglas

Robert Kauzlaric’s world premiere that kicks off Lifeline’s 26th season of literary adaptations is a brilliant, faithful adaptation of Oscar Wilde’s late Victorian gothic horror novel. The story examines a man’s obsession with youth and physical beauty. It also offers a twist on the Faustian theme, features a cautionary lesson about hedonism and is filled with instances of decadence and homoeroticism.

Director Kevin Theis has assembled a most talented ensemble of actors and designers who deftly breathe life into this mesmerizing tale of a man bewitched and tormented by his own desire. The playwright cleverly balances the younger with the elder versions of four key characters: Basil Hallward, the artist who adoringly paints Gray’s portrait; Lord Henry Wotton, the nobleman who both befriends and then corrupts Dorian with his view of the world; Alan Campbell, once a close friend smitten with Gray until his reputation begins to come into question; and James Vane, the overly protective brother of the woman Dorian’s promised to marry. By sometimes juxtaposing their dialogue, often positioning the elder version of the character on the set’s upper level directly above the younger version, the director creates an interesting comment on maturity and aging.

The entire cast is accomplished and fully in charge of this briskly paced production, making it difficult to cite any one actor. However Nick Vidal is positively riveting in the title role and his gradual degeneration toward depravity is both subtle and profound. With merely a sideways look or the lift of an eyebrow, this actor can speak volumes. And without spoiling the effect, suffice it to say that once you’ve experienced the play’s heart-stopping final moments, you’ll develop an appreciation for this young actor, as well as the unity of this ensemble of actors.

Aaron Snook and Don Bender both play Basil, the artist whose fervent love for Dorian Gray’s beauty is destined to bring about his downfall. Both Paul S. Holmquist and Sean Sinitski deliciously serve as Oscar Wilde’s mouthpiece sharing the play’s best and wittiest lines as hedonist Lord Henry. Kyle A. Gibson and John Ferrick share the role of Alan Campbell, showing the character’s love turn to horror as Dorian ultimately betrays him. Melissa Nedell is haunting as Dorian’s love interest, Sibyl Vane, particularly in the moments unspoken.

Technically this production is superior to most. In the intimate little Lifeline Theatre, the two-level set works well, utilizing the balcony level as Gray’s attic as well as the place where memories live, while the ground floor depicts the here and now. The special effects are particularly well-done, conjuring up eerie environments, and ghostly images and causing the portrait’s–and Dorian’s–deterioration right before our eyes. And the icing on the cake is Andrew Hansen’s powerful original music and sound design combined with Kevin D. Gawley’s lighting; together, the two elements effectively contribute to and enhance the story’s tone. As an adaptation and as a unique work of art, this is a must-see event.



From Chicago Stage Review

September 23, 2008
By Venus Zarris

Lifeline Theatre enchants crowds with another triumphant Halloween trick or treat! “The Picture of Dorian Gray” is sure to start off your eerie festivities right. This tawdry tale of deadly decadence and deviate debauchery is a sophisticated way for big kids to enjoy this haunting season.

But “The Picture of Dorian Gray” is not just fun. It is a lavish and impressive rendering of an outstanding adaptation. Oscar Wilde’s controversial gothic horror novel has been referred to as ‘one of the modern classics of Western literature.’ And listening to the beguiling dialogue supports this assumption. Almost every other line is a brilliant quote that stands on its own. Wilde’s insights into hedonistic human nature and the darker side of the soul are both charming and chilling.

Dorian is the ‘IT’ boy. Ladies love him and so do the gents, to the point of dangerous distraction. Artist/friend Basil paints a remarkable portrait of Dorian, capturing his hypnotizing beauty and youth. When Dorian meets the devilish Henry, all bets for decency are off as Henry’s seductive brand of hedonism draws Dorian to his ultimate demise. Henry worships youth and pleasure, at any and all cost. His influence causes Dorian to do the same. Dorian declares a Faustian deal to remain young and so he does. Only his portrait shows the ravages of age and overindulgence, becoming a mirror of Dorian’s vile and unredeemable soul.

The spellbinding cast brings this dandy nightmare to life with vivid style. Director Kevin Theis makes an entertaining masterpiece out of Robert Kauzlaric’s theatrically thrilling adaptation. Tom Burch’s split-level set imagines an elegant corporal world on the ground and a more haunting addict, inhabited by the victims of Dorian’s obsession, above.

The ensemble is terrific but Paul S. Holmquist’s cleverly diabolical Henry really stokes the fires of Wilde’s neurotically impetuous inferno, acting as a surreptitious pickpocket of reason and virtue. Every aspect of this production comes together to create a triumph but the real star is Oscar Wilde’s writing. His wicked wit and adroit humor are as seductive as youth itself.

If Oscar Wilde was correct when he said ‘There is only one thing worse than being talked about and that is not being talked about.’ than this production, much like Wilde himself, has nothing to worry about. Audiences will be talking about this one for some time to come!

‘The only way to get rid of temptation is to yield to it.’ So rush to Lifeline Theatre and immerse, indulge and imbibe in this wickedly wonderful deviate delight.



From Chicago Free Press

October 15, 2008
By Brian Kirst

Lifeline Theatre’s adaptation of Oscar Wilde’s “The Picture of Dorian Gray” is a worthy tribute to the novel that many scholars consider the last work of classic gothic horror fiction. In fact, with mystical dread and slow boiling tension, Lifeline Theatre has subtly created a modern classic of their very own.

Robert Kauzlaric’s keenly adapted version of Wilde’s only published novel follows the murderous downfall of preternaturally beautiful youth Dorian Gray. Influenced by the hedonistic Lord Henry Wotton, Gray finds himself drawn into a pleasurable, soulless existence. Meanwhile, a once fervently made wish to remain young reveals itself as reality. A portrait of Gray shows all the signs of his wanton lifestyle while he remains forever untouched by his cruel and excessive nature. Kauzlaric wisely employs older and younger voices of the men most rabidly influenced by Gray, allowing for the true heartache and degenerative nature of passion to clearly show in all its gestations.

While the homoerotic nature of Wilde’s novel was considered a determent upon it’s initial publishing in the late 19th century, it did not stop its amazing cultural influence. Wilde’s story has found its way into movie theatres, television screens and dance halls.

Thankfully, Lifeline’s production does not sidestep the homosexual nature of Gray’s existence as more mainstream attempts have. Here, Gray’s proclivities arrange themselves with a soft and smoldering sensuality that lingers without a hint of exploitation.

Director Kevin Theis is able to bring out the true emotion and humor in the tale as well as create an atmosphere of pounding dread. Theis also manages a couple moments of pure theatrical magic that may cause audience members to gasp in wonder, reveling in the joy of the live theatrical experience. Theis is immeasurably aided by Branimira Ivanova’s rich, authentic costumes, Andrew Hanson’s doom laden music and Tom Burch’s healthy, adventuresome scenic design. Theis and his team’s brilliant dedication show’s itself, most significantly, in their ability to transport the audience into another world for the two hours it takes for the tale to unwind.

As Dorian, Nick Vidal faces an almost impossible task with swift energy and aplomb. He leads a top rate ensemble anchored by theater veterans Don Bender, Sean Sinitski, John Ferrick and David Skvarla. These four provide the show’s true moments of beauty and lively anguish. They are commendably echoed by their younger counterparts – Aaron Snook, Paul S. Holmquist, Kyle A. Gibson and Adam Breske. As the sole female, Melissa Nedell compels with both girlishness and a cracked wisdom that fully resonates with a bewitched intensity – much like the production itself.



From Windy City Times

October 1, 2008
By Catey Sullivan

Talk all you want about how 40 is the new 20, and age is just a number. The truth is, aging sucks. Those aren’t lines of character signifying wisdom, they’re wrinkles. Gray isn’t distinguished. It’s depressing. As the song goes, it ain’t pretty when the pretty leaves.

Of course, youth worship is hardly unique to the 21st century. Long before Botox, boy bands and the Disney-induced idolatry of 16-year-old pop tarts, Oscar Wilde had his pen on the very pulse of youth worship. Published in 1890, his gorgeously grotesque The Picture of Dorian Gray remains chilling and immediate.

With Robert Kauzlaric’s adaptation of the macabre thriller, Lifeline Theatre retains all the Faustian horror, preternatural beauty and homoerotic insinuations that run through Wilde’s text and subtext like rivers of blood and champagne. This is a story of evil in the guise of a perfect body and an angelic face. Wilde’s barbed humor makes Picture all the more delectable. Fanged and fabulous, the epigrams fly as Wilde exposes ugliness and hypocrisy lurking behind the glossy scrim of morality.

Tampering with a masterpiece is a dicey business, but Kauzlaric and director Kevin Theis magnificently capture the letter and the spirit of Wilde’s original. In a potent construct, the narrative unfolds through two generations of actors. We meet Dorian’s urbane friends (and obsessive worshippers) as young men being viewed through a prism of memory recalled by their older selves.

The performances are uniformly marvelous, but off-Loop veteran Don Bender stands out: With close to a quarter century in the world of storefront theater, he’s an actor who just keeps getting better as the years pile up. Ditto the ever-defiant Sean Sinitski, who plays the elder Lord Henry Wotton, the libertine who first shows Dorian the godless pleasures of unrestrained hedonism. Watch also for Kyle A. Gibson, utterly compelling as one of Dorian’s all-too-disposable lovers. As the darkly shining center of the first rate ensemble, Nick Vidal is delicious as Dorian Gray. Blessed with golden good looks, he shifts from a waggish, loveable roué into a creature capable of appalling cruelty with the silky, coldblooded ease.

As for the all-important magical portrait, artist Charles Athanas gives us an extraordinary prop that garishly decays each time Dorian’s soul is scarred with a new sin. While it lacks the lurid, diseased detail of Ivan Albright’s famed portrait on display in the Art Institute, Athanas’ picture is nonetheless both shocking and creepy, with each trait intensified by Andrew Hansen’s original music and sound design.

“The only way to get rid of temptation is to yield to it,” blithely notes one profligate in Dorian’s dark orbit. Lifeline’s production is one temptation that should not be resisted. On the verge of Halloween, this is a story rich in scares and smarts.



From NewCity Chicago

September 29, 2008
By Dennis Polkow

Although “The Picture of Dorian Gray” was playwright Oscar Wilde’s only novel, the piece has so fascinated that adaptations of it are staged almost as routinely as his iconic plays. Who can resist the notion of a young man able to keep a portrait that ages up in the attic while he stays youthful and vigorous over a lifetime of debauchery?

Lifeline Theatre ensemble member Robert Kauzlaric’s two-hour version goes for the throat, often literally, in plummeting the dark depths and Gothic horror of the work, perfect for the Halloween season. Yes, there are introspective issues at stake in the work that are glossed over and true, many of us would consider Wilde’s grotesque details as metaphorical, but metaphor doesn’t stage well.

The picture itself is often done up as a boring portrait that rarely reflects Wilde’s own description of its beauty, so it is refreshing to see not only how much that the picture looks like an idealized version of the lead character, but that it is done up in a neo-Impressionistic style reflective of its era. And though the transformations themselves happen through sound effects while the painting is usually not visible, the climax and final portrait will not disappoint.

Nick Vidal makes a splendid Dorian, a brainless, beautiful creature who looks as if he was made of “ivory and rose leaves,” as Wilde puts it, complete with the “golden curls.” Vidal makes Dorian’s transformations all the more believable by keeping him emotionless throughout: at first, a naïve boy fascinated in the theories of his elders, but as time goes on, a manipulating narcissist whose ethos remains an inability to think of anyone but himself and his own pleasure, i.e., the older we get, what often seems to characterize youth itself.



From the Chicago Reader

September 30, 2008
By Albert Williams

Oscar Wilde’s 1891 novel–about a handsome Victorian libertine who retains his boyish looks while his portrait changes to register the effects of age and debauchery–is effectively brought to the stage by playwright Robert Kauzlaric and director Kevin Theis. The narrative is delivered story-theater style, allowing the audience to savor Wilde’s ironic, sometimes startling commentaries on beauty, love, art, innocence, illusion, and the interplay between the senses and the soul. Nick Vidal as the cruel and callow Dorian heads a strong ten-person ensemble in this production, which deftly juggles philosophical reflection, pitch-black humor, and supernatural horror.



From Copley News Service

September 23, 2008
By Dan Zeff

The Lifeline Theatre production of “The Picture of Dorian Gray” is superb theater and first-rate Oscar Wilde. The drama ranks among the best shows this theater has ever done, high but well-earned praise for a company justly celebrated for its stage adaptations of literary works.

“The Picture of Dorian Gray” was published in book form in 1891 and immediately caused a scandal in Victorian England. The novel helped convict Wilde of “gross indecency” four years later.

The title character is a handsome young man who falls under the pernicious influence of Lord Henry Wotton. Wotton is an aesthete who lives for pleasure and beauty, a Wilde stand-in. He initiates Dorian Gray into a life of sensuality and vice, turning the younger man from an innocent into a model of depravity. There is a supernatural element to the story. Gray’s portrait is painted by Basil Hallward. Gray contrives a satanic bargain by which he retains his precious youth while the portrait, locked away in an attic, reflects the physical horrors of Gray¹s descent into dissipation and cruelty.

Robert Kauzlaric masterfully adapts and condenses the novel, preserving Wilde’s aphorisms and wit, mostly spoken by the cynical Wotton, as well as much of Wilde’s philosophy of art and beauty. The adaptation takes most of its language from the novel and what aren’t Wilde’s words certainly sound like them.

Kauzlaric uses the effective device of presenting the four major supporting characters in both their youthful and older persons. Thus we get the younger and older Wotton and Hallward, as well as a scientist named Alan Campbell and the brother of Sibyl Vane, a man dedicated to tracking down Gray to avenge the death of his sister.

The older manifestations of the characters stand on a balcony above the stage, commenting on the action below. They also enter the action directly, even as ghosts who haunt Gray as his guilty conscience erodes his mental stability.

The big finish in the novel, and in the two motion picture versions, comes in the attic when Gray finally confronts his painted image, the mirror of all his sins for the last 18 years of his life. The 1945 film version reaches its climax with Ivan Albright’s stunning portrait of the corrupt Gray. In the Lifeline treatment, the painting plays its part in Gray’s death, and so do the characters violated by Gray’s descent into evil. It’s a brilliant coupe de theater, concluding with an original flourish, Wotton being handed a knife to end his own dissipated life.

The novel is supremely literate and the Lifeline cast is well up to the mark in delivering that literacy with both wry humor and dramatic intensity. The key performance, of course, must come from the actor playing Dorian Gray. Nick Vidal does a splendid job of rendering the shadings that turn Gray from a handsome innocent into a moral degenerate.

Paul Holmquist triumphs in tossing off all those juicy Wildean lines as the younger Henry Wotton, the jaded sophisticate irresistible to an impressionable Dorian Gray, a youth open to tasting the delights of forbidden lusts. Sean Sinitski smoothly picks up the Wotton character in later life, still the urbane rogue.

The other major characters are all well played by Aaron Snook and Don Bender (the younger and elder Basil Hallward), Kyle A. Gibson and John Ferrick (the younger and elder Alan Campbell), and Adam Breske and David Skvarla (the younger and older avenging brother).

Special commendation goes to Melissa Nedell, the only female in the ensemble, for a superb job as the lovesick Sibyl Vane who becomes a sinister presence in Gray¹s mind after her death.

Kevin Theis has done a masterful job of directing the demanding script with a perfect eye for its verbal richness, building up the suspense nicely to the stunning final scene. Tom Burch’s bi-level set credibly represents a Victorian drawing room and that menacing attic. Branimira Ivanova designed the authentic looking Victorian costumes. Kevin D. Gawley designed the lighting and Andrew Hansen the original music and sound. The credit for “violence design,” a label new to me, goes to Richard Gilbert and David Gregory who created the production¹s intense final moments.