Chris Ryan and Karina Fernicola-Ikezoe in
Salome
(© Black Moon)
Chris Ryan and Karina Fernicola-Ikezoe in
Salome
(© Black Moon)
While known for his light wit, playwright Oscar Wilde also crafted some seriously dramatic works, including Salome which Rene Migliacio and his Black Moon Theatre Company are presenting at the Flea Theatre in an uneven but occasionally enthralling production.

Wilde's classic tale of the dangerous nature of desire opens with the virginal Salome (Karina Fernicola-Ikezoe) lusting after the pious Iokanaan -- aka John the Baptist (Chris Ryan), who not only spurns her advances but ridicules her desire for him.

This longing hangs throughout the play until her father, King Herod Antipas (Alessio Bordoni) -- who has long lusted after his own daughter -- makes her an enticing offer: if she dances for her father, he will grant her anything she wants up to "the half of my kingdom." Salome sees this as a way to finally possess Iokanaan.

Now this isn't just any dance. In the New Testament, from which Wilde draws his characters, this dance is known as the dance of the seven veils, where Salome seduces her father to bend him to her will. It's the climactic moment of the show as Salome's and the King's desires conflate in a terrifying mix of sexuality and destruction. As we watch, we're both drawn to Salome and repulsed by this act demanded by her father, which we know will betray the sacred bond between father and daughter. However, they both are so blinded by their desires that they chase after what will ultimately destroy them.

The problem with Migliacio's over-stylized, gothic production is that we never feel these conflicting desires, because the performances he's cultivated from his actors are one-note. He's clearly directed them to play the action only on the most basic and base level. In particular,

Bordoni looks as if he's literally been possessed by a demon, thus robbing the role of the nuanced kind of dilemma that Wilde's written while also obfuscating the dark humor beneath the tragedy.

Fernicola-Ikezoe is seductive as Salome, but when she finally delivers one of the most famous lines of the play -- give me the head of Iokanaan" -- one doesn't fully feel Salome's lust, shame of budding sexuality, base desire for revenge of being scorned, and misplaced love of a teenage girl. Instead of slowly breaking the hearts of the audience, she just screams.