The Internet Theater Magazine of Reviews, Features, Annotated Listings


SEARCH CurtainUp



Etcetera and
Short Term Listings



LA/San Diego






Free Updates
NYC Weather
A CurtainUp Review

Naked Will
By Laura Hitchcock

Based on Oscar Wilde's favorite short story "The Portrait of Mr. W.H.", which, in turn, is based on an old theory about the identity of the muse who inspired Shakespeare's sonnets. Whether Dark Lady or Young Man, playwright Blair Fell's clever lusty portrait of artistic obsession is shadowed by the effect the story had on its author. It provided the first ammunition to those forces which eventually forced Oscar Wilde into prison and subsequently out of England.

The play has been called literate. How could it be otherwise with both Shakespeare and Wilde to be drawn on? Fell inserts his own sense of structure and characterization. Director Derek Charles Livingston provides the pace. There's no nudity but a lot of writhing.

The story implies Shakespeare's muse was a young actor, Willie Hughes (a fictional character), who played the female roles in Shakespeare's plays. While Wilde and his friend Erskine try to sort out this theory initiated by Cyril Graham, their young Oxford classmate, who commits suicide when Erskine refuses to believe him, the Elizabethan characters depict the story Wilde weaves out of this theory.

Shakespeare, played with understated charisma by Rey Howard, initially tries to keep his distance from Willie, maintaining that a physical relationship might harm his art. It's made clear from the beginning when Willie, a boy chorister, is summoned to the loft by a naked choirmaster that he's no virgin.

The minx in the mix is Rose, deliciously played by Josie DiVincenzo, who is smitten with Shakespeare but seduces Will to attract WS's attention. This works but it doesn't work, as Fell slyly teases out the politics of passion.

Matty Ferraro plays the aristocratic Cyril Graham with delicate grace. As Willie Hughes, he attempts the total opposite, offsetting the boy's beauty by using a loutish country accent that's perilously close to caricature. He drops it with delightful impersonations of all Shakespeare's female characters, down to the glee with which he soaks up applause. It's always hard to play Oscar Wilde and when Hutchins Foster makes his entrance, you think you may be treated to an over-the-top fop cliché. But as the play goes on and Foster/Wilde is caught up in creating his story, all the mannerisms fall away and you have a feeling this was planned from the very beginning. This revelation of Oscar Wilde is a risk that Foster and Livingston pull off.

Solid versatile support comes from Michael Oosterom as the conflicted Victorian Erskine and the flamboyant Elizabethan actor/manager Burbage, and Noah Wagner as the painter Merton and a dynamic Christopher Marlowe who died too soon, both in life and in this play. The charming set, mostly Victorian but very literate, is designed by Keith Ellis Mitchell.

To read a review of another production of this play go here.

Playwright: Blair Fell, inspired by "The Portrait of W.H." by Oscar Wilde
Director: Derek Charles Livingston
Cast: Josie DiVicenzo (Merton's Wife/Rose/Official), Matty Ferraro (Cyril Graham/Willie Hughes), Hutchins Foster (Oscar Wilde), Rey Howard (William Shakespeare), Michael Oosterom (Erskine/Richard Burbage), Noah Wagner (Merton/Christopher Marlowe)
Set Design: Keith Ellis Mitchell
Lighting Design: Kathi O'Donohue & Derek Charles Livingston
Costume Design: Shon LeBlanc
Running Time: Two hours with one intermission
Running Dates: January 23-February 22
T Where: Celebration Theatre, 7051B Santa Monica Blvd, Los Angeles, Reservations: (323) 957-1884
Reviewed by Laura Hitchcock on February 1.
At This Theater Cover
At This Theater

Leonard Maltin's 2003 Movie and Video Guide
Leonard Maltin's 2003 Movie and Video Guide

Ridiculous! The Theatrical Life and Times of Charles Ludlam
Ridiculous!The Theatrical Life & Times of Charles Ludlam

Somewhere For Me, a Biography of Richard Rodgers
Somewhere For Me, a Biography of Richard Rodgers

The New York Times Book of Broadway: On the Aisle for the Unforgettable Plays of the Last Century
The New York Times Book of Broadway: On the Aisle for the Unforgettable Plays of the Last Century

metaphors dictionary cover
6, 500 Comparative Phrases including 800 Shakespearean Metaphors by CurtainUp's editor.
Click image to buy.
Go here for details and larger image.

The Broadway Theatre Archive


©Copyright 2004, Elyse Sommer, CurtainUp.
Information from this site may not be reproduced in print or online without specific permission from