Finding Dorian Gray in The Albany Barn

When ‘American Psycho’ was musicalized on Broadway and Patrick Bateman (Benjamin Walker) strutted his stuff with bulky walkman and tight white briefs, the blood and brutality of 80’s excess found questionable expression and audiences weren’t quite ready to take such a literal walk through a serial killer’s bloody mind. Soon after its opening, it shuttered. Though mixed, reviews indicated a daring take on the musical form.

In similar gory fashion, ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’ finds a thrilling updated form in a reworked take written by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and currently slashing its way through the Creative License production at the Albany Barn. Aaron Holbritter and Casey Polomaine have taken the classic tale and brought it into the now-retro world of the 80’s – a perfect match for the darker source material. Ian LaChance gives the title role its proper trajectory, starting out somewhat vacantly then growing increasingly tortured and manic as the evening wears on. Steve Maggio, Lucy Miller, Nick Bosanko and Isaac Newberry round out the main cast, but this murderous story insures that not all of their characters survive. Holbritter plays up the thriller aspect to great effect – this is not the Victorian novel of manners you might remember.

Fabled folklore has traditionally dismissed ‘Dorian Gray’ as an effete dandification of vanity and self-obsession, and Oscar Wilde’s reputation only lent credence to such a reading. That’s always been unfortunate, because as much as I love a good dandy story this goes far deeper than that. The frightening storyline, dealing with the things we give up and sacrifice for youth, beauty, and self-love, is a killer treatise on today’s culture as much as it was when it originated. Recast in those heady ‘American Psycho’ days, this ‘Dorian Gray’ moves out of its binding period set, thus freeing it to make broader implications of obsession, and the way we murder our own identities in service of the perfect selfie.

{‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’ is playing at the Albany Barn through April 1. Tickets may be purchased here.}

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