If your familiarity with Oscar Wilde extends only to his plays—and I argue that a great production of “The Importance of Being Earnest” or “An Ideal Husband” already speaks volumes on the man himself—then “Gross Indecency: The Three Trials of Oscar Wilde, ” Moisès Kaufman’s 1997 Off-Broadway smash-hit play recounting the personal drama that rivaled anything Wilde ever wrote for the stage, could prove gripping biopic theater. Exhaustively researched and impressively assembled, “Gross Indecency” recounts the three trials of 1895 in which the playwright, who had famously “…placed his genius into his life and only his talent into his work,” displayed neither in his obsessive and misguided pursuit (verging on the pederastic) of the youthful Lord Alfred “Bosie” Douglas, an affair that would set in motion a chain of events leading to Wilde’s tragic downfall. Constructed from snippets of first-person and third-person dialogue drawn from courtroom transcripts, newspapers and memoirs, utilizing a Greek chorus-like ensemble of young men playing multiple roles and boasting a Foucault-quoting Queer studies contemporary academic who argues that the trials of Oscar Wilde were the birthplace of gay liberation, Kaufman’s play, if you’re over-familiar with this story as I am, is less an occasion for riveting theatricality than for well-researched factual regurgitation. In short, there is nothing here that Kaufman reveals or develops that hasn’t been stated before and with more dramatic imagination and flair. Nevertheless, Bohemian Theatre Ensemble’s intimate production for the Heartland Studio, under the well-paced and fluid direction of Stephen M. Genovese, assures that there’s never a dull moment despite the dense nature of docudrama theater. As well, it’s performed with an admirable earnestness that is typical of BoHo productions. (Fabrizio O. Almeida)
BoHo Theatre at Heartland Studio, 7016 N. Glenwood, (773)791-2393. Thu-Sat 8pm/Sun 2pm. $20. Through August 26.