February 26th, 2008


Ah, the theater ...

Here's another one that's a bit challenging to "review" ... as not only is it a play (which I've never seen produced), but it's a rather slim one at that. Much as in my previous review, there is a factor of "changing times" involved with this, as Oscar Wilde's Salome was banned for its "sexual perversity", and unless it was getting very naughty stagings, the modern eye sees less "filth" in here than what appears in your typical prime-time sitcom!

Yes, there is a goodly amount of implied "inappropriate lust" exhibited by Herod towards Salome, but it's all framed in "looking at her", and with no more lurid descriptions than saying that her feet are like "little doves". Now, maybe a foot-fetishist would find this gripping, but it's a bit tame on this end of the time-line. There is also some implied homosexuality, but only in the most "circumstantial" (one young male getting gifts from another) settings ... which, again, might have well been scandalous when this was written (Wilde was, after all, imprisoned for that "crime"), but is almost in "kid's TV" by today's standards. Frankly, the "roughest" lines are given to Iokanaan (John the Baptist), when he's railing against Herodias, but these don't vary much from what's in the King James Bible!

The writing moves through three stages. Frankly, the first part of play reads a bit like a Monty Python sketch with a lot of "stating the obvious", which is followed by a middle section which includes a substantial amount of "backstory" in dialog, and ending with a final section with a lot of long rants, primarily by Herod. Anybody familiar with the Bible story will know where all this is heading from the get-go, of course, so it's just seeing how they move the plot along. Salome does not fare well here, being painted as a self-centered demanding spoiled child, who is creeped out about her father-in-law's obvious lust for her, angered by Iokanaan's constant savaging of her mother (for lying in a "bed of abominations" and other such unpleasantries), and yet somehow attracted to the bedraggled prophet, who (no surprise) refuses to have anything to do with her.

There are all sorts of odd little sub-plots in Salome, such as that of "The Young Syrian" who is madly in love with Salome (yet appears to be the gay love interest of Herodias' Page) who is beguiled into bringing Iokanaan to Salome (and somehow dying in the process ... again, much of the action has a rather Monty Pythonesque flow to it), and is almost the central character for the first half of the play. And there is an on-going bit about "what various people think of the appearance of the Moon", which brings along the "internal states" as the play goes.

Anyway, it's short, it's strange, it's based on a story that pretty much everybody knows, and it's remarkably inexpensive at a whopping $1.50 cover price (it's another of those Dover Thrift Editions that Amazon adds on a "sourcing charge", so it likely cheaper at a brick-and-mortar store). Wilde is always a clever writer, so he is unlikely to bore, so if you're looking for a quick read at a low price, this could well be for you!

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