A Wonderful Wife, by Jeremy Basescu

On our Flux Sunday March 16th we completed working through Jeremy Basescu’s A Wonderful Wife. This was especially exciting because Jeremy (pictured to the left) was writing the play as we went along – one of the original goals of Flux Sunday was to serve as both spur and immediate gratification to plays in progress.

And what a play! A Wonderful Wife is like Pinter writing with a porcelain pen – the pauses and subtext still have menace, but are impeccably clean and groomed. This is the kind of play where you can hear the soup cool and the ice jangling in the martini is unspeakably loud. Carl, the bread winner of our immaculate house hold, surprises his accommodating wife June with a ‘visitor’. The visitor is a stunningly attractive younger woman named Angela, who tries to seduce her way to absolute power in the household.

Unexpectedly, however, Angela finds herself more drawn to the unassuming June than her alleged lover Carl. An axis of power forms between the women: in Angela, June has a tutor in how to wield beauty and power overtly and without apology; in June, Angela has an ideal audience. Carl increasingly finds himself on the outside of the relationship that was supposed to offer him the connection his tidy marriage had been missing.

When Carl and June’s son Max comes home from college, the subtle hostility and power struggle breaks to the surface as he fights for what he perceives as his mother’s humiliation. Unable to see or accept the complexity and complicity of his mother’s position, he takes action against the vampiric Angela by seducing her daughter, Christine. When Max sends drawings of Christine naked to his father, the beauty of the pictures sets off a chain reaction of epiphany, reconciliation and ultimately, exile.

The play’s primary concern is beauty – who has it and knows it, who thinks they have it and doesn’t, who knows how to use it and what are the costs of doing so. For the majority of the play, beauty is seen an as expression of power, of aggression and domination, primarily through the actions of Angela the visitor. The climax of the play reveals beauty to be a subtler agent, and at the end of the play, it is the meek-seeming June who holds the power and owns the beauty. Max and Christine seem to be together, June and Carl are apart but are finding a beauty in distance; and Angela is exiled from all of it.

Great directing work throughout the process was contributed by Jeremy himself and Isaiah Tanenbaum; and actors who left their mark were Candice Holdorf as Angela, Jane Taylor and Anja Braanstorm as June, Brian Pracht and Jake Alexander as Max, and Cotton Wright as Christine. Thanks to all for their great work over many months on this fascinating play.

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