Oscar Wilde’s 1893 re-telling of John the Baptist’s ill-fated dealings with King Herod’s stepdaughter Salome is given a lusty but unenlightened outing by the Buffalo Nights Theatre Co. Set in the contemporary carnival atmosphere of the Caribbean, this minor work remains a minor work, despite the energetic prancings of the ensemble. In his program notes, director Howard Teichman calls “Salome” a morality play about excess and how it corrupts. There is nothing revealing about this play that isn’t presented better in the books of Matthew and Mark, and Teichman has discovered no hidden insights in the text.
John the Baptist (Gibson Frazier) rails against the evil Queen Herodias (Evelyn Celic). Herod (David Paul Needles) lusts after Salome (Sydney Bennet). And Salome wants John’s head on a platter. That’s it.
Despite its shortcomings, the production is at times fun to watch, especially Bennet’s wildly seductive “dance of the seven veils.”
Frazier presents a simple, straightforward John the Baptist. Needles does an admirable job of showing both the lust and the terror of Herod. Unfortunately, Celic is a listless Herodias.
Brian Kite is effective as the fatally infatuated young Syrian captain. And Sammie Wayne IV offers a sinister presence as the chainsaw-wielding executioner.
Kate Rosen’s scenic design is effective in evoking the insecurity of the times. The production also is ably supported by the lighting of Craig Pierce, the original music of Nelly Gimbel and the sound design of Jason Duplissea.