Oscar Wilde is on trial and you are a juror. This isn’t some sort of vindictive time machine fantasy, it’s simply the way that director Liz Fenstermaker has staged “Gross Indecency: The Three Trials of Oscar Wilde” at the BCA. Instead of the traditional stage setup, the audience is seated in the jury box, blurring the line between audience and performer.
“We were looking for something … that would draw the audiences in and get them really close to the action,” she says, “and [ask] them to participate by being so close to the action.”
Throughout “The Three Trials,” John Geoffrion is a constant source of laughter as Wilde, playing the role with sardonic wit and a paradoxical personality. But it only works because all of the actors presents the many facets of their characters with irresistible realism.
“I got a really wonderful group of guys who are really committed, great collaborators,” says Fenstermaker.
She says the actors were inspired by Wilde and what ended up being the first civil case against homosexuality.
“The actors really approached it from an emotional standpoint,” she says of the trial, “and really trying to put those words forward in the best way possible.”
Wilde’s work and actions challenged societal practices of the 1890s. And though “The Three Trials” challenges the author’s lifestyle, the play demonstrates that he is a beloved figure and his work will continue to inspire and challenge people for generations to come.
“As an artist Wilde cared only for good craftsmanship,” says Fenstermaker. “He believed social, economic, moral and cultural boundaries are irrelevant in good art and his readers were drawn to the boldness of his work.”