It's always exciting when an old play is taught new tricks or pushed into a time to see what it would look like in another era (and on this side of the Atlantic). It's even more compelling when it's "An Ideal Husband," the 19th-century Oscar Wilde British comedy, which has been given a new adaptation that moves the action to 1959 Washington, D.C.
The adaptation by Bay Area playwright Scott Munson gets its world premiere 8 p.m. Friday at Douglas Morrisson Theatre in Hayward.
Munson said the decision to transfer the play from 1890s London to 1959 Washington, D.C., was a simple one. At the time of the original play, British leaders were smug in the belief that neither the sun, nor anything else, would ever set on the British Empire.
In 1959, he says, the United States was at the height of its power and at home was believed to be one of the world's good guys. At the time, the earliest baby boomers were still a half-decade away from graduating from high school, and the last of that generation was a half-decade away from being born.
It was also before Vietnam, the Bay of Pigs, the political ferment of the next 1960s and might also be seen as the high water mark of confidence in American power and influence.
Playwrights working in Great Britain in the late 1800s --Wilde, Shaw, Gilbert and Sullivan -- had an uncanny knack for making political commentary that applied not only to their generation, but on a far grander scope.
At its surface, the show has characters examining if it is really possible to have an ideal husband and an ideal marriage -- but not so far beneath that premise is an examination of wealth, corruption and the politics of those who have the power.
Munson has kept nearly all of the jokes and the storyline from Wilde's original, but he's added a new character -- Roosevelt, the black butler at the 1959 home.
Roosevelt's presence at a time when the civil rights movement is emerging adds a bit of racial tension to the piece and creates a character making moral commentary on the period.
"An Ideal Husband" plays through March 2 at the Hayward theater, 22311 N. Third St. Tickets, $21-$29, may be reserved at 510-881-6777 or www.dmtonline.org.
"GUYS AND DOLLS": The musical that put Damon Runyon's fables on Broadway, set to music by Frank Loesser, opens Friday at Walnut Creek's Dean Lesher Center for the Arts. The Diablo Theatre Company production features such tunes as "Luck Be a Lady," "Adelaide's Lament" and "Sit Down, You're Rockin' the Boat," as it spins the yarn of Broadway gamblers, their "dolls," the quest for a crap game and an ill-advised romantic wager. The show plays through March 1. Tickets, at $49-$53, may be reserved at 925-943-7469 or http://diablotheatre.org.
"GREAT AMERICAN TRAILER PARK MUSICAL": The off-Broadway cult hit that offers a good-natured mockery of the sort of social strata depicted in "Here Comes Honey Boo Boo," centers on Armadillo Acres in Florida, when a "stripper on the run" comes between a toll-taker and an agoraphobic housewife. The OMG, I Love That Show production plays Feb. 21 through March 9 at Lesher Center for the Arts in Walnut Creek. Tickets, $30-$35, may be reserved at 925-943-7469 or www.omgilovethatshow.com.
Contact Pat Craig at email@example.com.