Wilde’s words hit Theatre Calgary

By Claire Fenton

Oscar Wilde may have a reputation for appealing to snotty academics, but Theatre Calgary is hoping to show there’s more to him than that. Packed with wit and loaded with thoughtful themes, An Ideal Husband showcases Wilde’s talents on stage. Actor Christopher Hunt believes it will make an impression.

“When they think of Oscar Wilde, they think of a guy who wrote 100 years ago who went to prison for homosexuality and died a terrible death,” he says. “They might not know the kind of things he wrote. He’s an amazingly brilliant writer.”

An Ideal Husband follows Sir Robert Chiltern (Hunt), a turn of the century high-class society member in London. There are period costumes and intricate set and accents flying. Throw in a blackmail scheme, political corruption and endless one-liners and the result is a refreshing comedy.

“It’s got a lot of parallels to the modern political scene and dealing with relationships and friends and what we find important in life and where we get meaning,” says Hunt. “Hopefully it will make [the audience] laugh and make them think at the same time.”

The title revolves around the main character’s wife, who adores her husband and thinks he can do no wrong. He must keep his secrets in order to maintain the appearance of an ideal husband and watching him squirm just adds to the comedy. In Hunt’s career, he enjoys keeping a balance of comedy and drama, making Wilde’s words a great fit.

“I would hate to do just one all the time,” he explains. “Comedy probably comes a little bit easier to me and it’s easier to know when it’s working because you can hear the laughs.”

Hunt wasn’t familiar with the play before picking up the script, but quickly became a fan. He says it has the care given to the spoken language which is no longer respected and it reinstates the gift of language.

“It’s got the typical Oscar Wilde brilliant wit,” Hunt says. “On every page there are two or three quotable lines that you could put on a greeting card or a poster.”

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