By Chuck Graham, TucsonStage.com
photo by Tim Fuller
From left, Brendan Kellam, Nathanael Myers and Allie Knuth as ghouls and Ryan Parker Knox as Lord Arthur.
Everything is metaphor and symbolism in the Rogue Theatre's profound summer production done in collaboration with Artifact Dance Project of “A House of Pomegranates,” comprised of three Oscar Wilde short stories adapted for the stage by Christopher Johnson.
The short stories aren't anything like Wilde's witty plays or his novel “The Picture of Dorian Gray.” Seen through the focused eye of these Tucson artists, led by director Joseph McGrath and choreographer Ashley Bowman, the stories become vehicles of insight into human qualities we all share.
In each piece, society's values are set against the driven desires of someone with a higher sense of purpose. Nobility is not a rank but an intention. Yet, the unexpected twist is never far away. Oscar Wilde is their inspiration, after all.
In order of appearance, “Lord Arthur Savile's Crime: A Study of Duty” details the determined (and somewhat hilarious) exploits of a Victorian gentleman in the late 1800s who keeps trying to do the right thing.
“The Happy Prince” is an allegorical fairy tale set in a more traditional Europe of an earlier time when an ordinary bird and the statue of a popular hero develop a lasting friendship.
“The Fisherman and the Soul,” best-known of the three tales, takes place in a vaguely biblical Middle Eastern culture, questioning the essential purpose of one's soul and the divisiveness of organized religion as it regards the flesh.
The cast is large and the number of characters even larger in what is truly an ensemble effort in every sense of the word, even to the extent that some of the dancers have acting roles and some of the actors have dancing roles.
Claire Hancock, co-founder of Artifact with Bowman, is developing a fine sense of theater, taking on several speaking parts. She also played the Third Witch in the Rogue's recent production of “Macbeth.”
After last summer's satisfying collaboration between the two companies in “Tales of the Jazz Age,” this second venture develops an even more complex and emotionally richer blend of theater and dance.
Bowman's choreography often seems to be conveying thoughts straight from the subconscious. As the actors speak, the dancers add additional layers of meaning. Time after time, scenes are as much like poetry as theater.
Contributing an equally important element are the original compositions of music director/ musician Jake Sorgen. Sitting off to one side of the stage, his playing sustains an essential presence in each tale.
“A House of Pomegranates” continues through July 16 with performances at 7:30 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays, 2 p.m Sundays (plus a 2 p.m. matinee Saturday, July 15), at the Rogue Theatre, 300 E. University Blvd. All tickets are $38. For details and reservations, 520-551-2053 or visit www.theroguetheatre.org