My Scandalous Life
nytheatre.com review by Di Jayawickrema
February 3, 2011
Irish Repertory Theatre’s My Scandalous Life presents an abbreviated version of the life of Lord Alfred Douglas (“Bosie”), Oscar Wilde’s most infamous lover. A historical figure mired in intrigue and scandal, Bosie is ripe for representation for the stage but Thomas Kilroy’s original play flattens him entirely. The direction and acting are less than inspired, and the writing is both unfocused and indifferent.
We are introduced to “Wilde’s beloved Bosie” in his drawing room (a rich, authentic set by Charlie Corcoran), on the eve of his wife Olive’s death. Des Keogh, who plays Bosie, is a longtime veteran of the stage and his experience comes to bear here in his carriage and excellent diction, but his performance here never reaches his eyes. When representing Bosie’s façade of airy, dismissive snobbery—sneering at his past foes and Olive’s Irish maid, Eileen—he is proficient. However, when he is called to reveal the chinks in his carefully cultivated armor; when he breaks down in tears and prayers over the losses in his life, his performance never quite goes far enough. Fiana Toibin as Eileen, a highly emotional and sympathetic foil to Keogh’s cold nobleman, does better with her emotions. However, much of the fault lies with the script. Bosie’s life was not only externally colorful but also full of profound internal struggles with Wilde, his wife, his schizo-affective son, his religion, his homosexuality, etc. Kilroy touches on all these issues too lightly, possibly in an attempt to remain subtle, but it has a dulling effect.
The play, which seems in its first half to be tending towards an exploration of Bosie’s ambivalent relationship with Wilde, shifts to his equally complex relationship with his “lunatic” son, but neither thread is explored fully or connected to the other. The play ends abruptly in a sudden flood of backlighting with Bosie declaring himself united with his mentally affected son as one who is also outside the norm. The idea is interesting but the execution of this denouement, like the execution of the play in general, feels obscured and unfinished.