In some ways, Oscar Wilde's 1895 dramedy is even more fun than his masterpiece The Importance of Being Earnest: If it's not as acrobatically witty (what play is?), Husband's subject matter--political scandals and the double standards governing male vs. female behavior--is more up-to-date. Plus, it's more juicily melodramatic, with a memorably sumptuous villain in Mrs. Cheveley. She knows a career-crushing secret about Robert Chiltern, up-and-coming politician and, on the surface, paragon of rectitude. Complicating the matter is Robert's worshipful wife Gertrude; the pedestal she places him on becomes, unknowingly, the gallows that threatens to accelerate and complete Mrs. Cheveley's takedown. Thanks to director Karen Lund for keeping the pace brisk and including only as much sentimentality as is effective ; for seeing to it that no actor oversells a laugh line, thus ensuring they all land; and for a few scrupulous cuts ("A man's life is of more value than a woman's . . . "). Husband's theme: "It is not the perfect but the imperfect who have need of love." Of course, Victorian audiences expected, if not demanded, uplift from their theater, but hidden within this drawing-room comedy is Wilde's plea for understanding. A century later, it still hits home. GAVIN BORCHERT [See Gavin's full review.] EXTENDED one more weekend; ends Oct. 29.
Wednesdays-Sundays. Starts: Sept. 21. Continues through Oct. 29, 2011