Nope, I didn’t just get back from Rome. The fountain is the one in front of the Library of Congress in Washington, DC.
This past weekend, I flew up to DC for Tom’s and Joe’s wedding, and to visit again with my friend Terry, who lives in the delightful suburb of Takoma Park.
This visit, our DC museum outting was the National Gallery’s more-impressive-than-ever East Wing, which happened to be hosting exhibits of Gauguin’s paintings and of Canaletto’s paintings of Venice.
Terry treated me to a wonderful local performance of Peter Schaffer’s play Amadeus. The production took place on probably the most lavish theatre set I have ever seen anywhere, and the play is quite different from the 1984 movie version. (Curious to compare the two, the evening after we saw the play, we re-watched the DVD version of the movie. The movie includes far more of Mozart’s glorious music, but far less of the dialogue Shaffer devotes to to the character of Salieri, the narrator of the 1979 play.)
Our day trip out of the DC area this time was to the Eastern Shore of Maryland, and on over into Delaware so I could get a gander at Rehoboth Beach, an urban weekend retreat (and retirement destination) for many DC-area lesbians and gay men.
Rehoboth was pleasant to explore, but the high point of our overnight excursion was spending a little time in the tiny hamlet of Oxford on the way back to DC. By U.S. standards, this is an ancient town with dozens of adorable cottage-style homes and equally adorable cottage-style gardens, many of them overlooking the water. Oxford also has a still-functioning tavern (established circa 1700) overlooking the landing of “the oldest continuously operated ferry in the United States” (capacity: nine automobiles and six bicycles).
Back in DC after the day trip, it was also pleasant to stroll around the Library of Congress again, gaping reverently at the exhibit of Thomas Jefferson’s reconstituted library and marveling at the library’s plethora of High Victorian internal and external adornments, such as Roland Hinton Perry’s Neptune fountain.
I can’t remember when or how I first became intrigued with Oscar Wilde, but my obsession with All Things Wilde has been ebbing and flowing for over 30 years now.
Despite seeing several stage and film treatments of Oscar’s famous plays and enjoying the biopic Wilde, starring Stephen Fry, and after immersing myself about ten years ago in all the books about Wilde and his circle I could lay my hands on, I had decided that Peter Ackroyd’s brilliant 1984 novel The Last Testament of Oscar Wilde was the best fictional treatment of Oscar’s last days.
I’ve changed my mind about that after seeing, last night, a local production of David Hare’s 1998 play The Judas Kiss.
Hare’s play deals with two critical moments in Wilde’s extraordinary story: the night of his arrest for “gross indecency” and an evening in Naples over two years later – after Wilde’s two-year-long imprisonment at hard labor, during Wilde’s horrific exile from England.
Hare’s exquisite (and enthrallingly performed) script examines the complicated and conflicting beliefs, agendas, and delusions embodied by Wilde himself, by his young companion Bosie (Lord Alfred Douglas), and by his oldest friend (and confidante of Oscar’s wife Constance), Robbie Ross. The interplay between these three is completely plausible, and immensely compelling.
Even someone unfamiliar with the details of Oscar Wilde’s life would be riveted by the pyrotechnics of these three very willful characters and the terrifying clash of ideas and ideals they represent. Fortunately, the characters are believeable, flesh-and-blood realizations instead of stand-ins for particular concepts, and none of these three tragic characters is demonized by Hare’s treatment of them or incapable of eliciting sympathy from an audience.
The Judas Kiss continues at Actor’s Express through June 11th. If you live in or near Atlanta and have even the slightest interest in Wilde, I urge you to see it.