Summary of the story
Dorian Gray is a young man living in London during the 19th century. The play begins when Dorian is playing a classical piece on the piano. When he finishes the piece he turns to his close friend Basil Hallward and asks if he could borrow the sheet music. Basil tells him to hurry up and sit down as his model so he can finish the portrait he's working on. Dorian tells him to relax, but is surprised by another man sneaking up on him: Basil introduces him as his good friend Henry "Harry" Wotton. Basil asks Henry to leave while he works on the portrait, but Dorian convinces him to let Henry stay. After all, Dorian says, sitting model is boring and he would like to have someone to talk to. And so Henry talks to him, showering him with his personal opinions about the importance of beauty and how everyone should just indulge in whatever they fancy.
When the portrait is finished they all admire it greatly. Dorian himself is stunned when he sees his own beauty, and combined with what he just heard from Henry, he desperately exclaims how he wishes that the painting would age instead of himself, since he has realized that youth and beauty is all that matters. He just can't bear the thought that he himself will become older and lose his beauty, while the painting stays as young and beautiful as when it was first painted, taunting him.
Henry takes great interest in young Dorian because of his beauty, and offers to introduce him to all sorts of indulgences. Dorian is happy to go with him, a friend who helped him realize what's worth pursuing in life. Basil is not as happy about it, when he sees how Henry abandons him to corrupt his muse Dorian.
Dorian visits a theatre in the working-class part of the city, where the beautiful Sibyl Vane plays the part of Juliet in Romeo and Juliet. Dorian falls in love with her because she is such a talented actress, and he continues to visit the theatre to see her acting in different Shakespeare plays. He courts her, saying pretty things and singing a love song to her, and then he proposes marriage - she accepts. But her brother James is wary - she doesn't even know the guy's name. Sibyl calls him "Prince Charming" and is happy that she gets a chance at a better life. James warns that if this Prince Charming mistreats her he will kill him.
Dorian invites Basil and Henry to the theatre to show them what a wonderful actress he will marry. They frown at the sort of place he's found her, and then when she enters the stage she performs poorly because she's distracted. Basil and Henry can't understand how Dorian can call her a skilled actress with a lovely voice and believe he only fell in love with her beauty. Dorian is so embarrassed by this that he meets Sibyl backstage and rejects her - he says that he fell in love with her good acting, and without that there's nothing about her that he loves.
When Dorian returns home he notices that the portrait of him has changed. There is a cruel expression on the face of the painting, and Dorian is scared when he sees it. He wonders what could have caused the painting to change, and then he remembers the wish he made when the painting was finished. He realizes what has happened and that perhaps it's changed because of the way he treated Sibyl.
Suddenly Henry visits Dorian. Dorian tells him that he has changed his mind and will go to Sibyl again and tell her that he still wants to marry her. But then Henry tells him the terrible news - that Sibyl has been found dead by suicide. Dorian is heartbroken at hearing this, but Henry tries to console him. And Dorian decides that lust and beauty will be all that matters to him from now on. He tells Henry how grateful he is for having him as a friend. At the same time, James swears that he will find and kill the man responsible for his sister's death.
Dorian sits down by the piano and plays a piece that is terribly distorted with dark and wild undertones. While he plays, the portrait continues to change more and more, and in the end looks hideous and bathes in red light.
One late night 18 years later Dorian plays a beautiful piece on the piano. Suddenly Basil knocks on the doors - he wants to visit Dorian before traveling to Paris where he will stay for six months. He is worried about Dorian. Dorian doesn't seem to age at all, and there are all sorts of rumours in the city about Dorian's sinful life. Basil says he doesn't believe the rumours but he wants to find out what's going on, and see that Dorian is well and healthy. But Dorian doesn't deny anything but asks if Basil wants to see his soul and shows him the hidden portrait - by now it's changed so much and looks so nasty, ill and evil that the only way Basil recognizes it as his painting is by his signature. Basil is horrified by what he sees, and when Dorian explains the truth about the painting - that the painting takes on all of his aging and his sins while he himself stays young and beautiful - Basil pleads to him to stop his sinful life and pray for salvation. But Dorian blames Basil for what has happened, and gets angry when Basil says the portrait is too hideous to look at (after all, it's his soul Basil is talking about) and in anger he stabs his old friend to death. Then he sends word for an old friend, Alan Campbell, who he blackmails into destroying Basil's body and all evidence of his murder.
Dorian falls even deeper in sins to escape his feelings of guilt. He joins a group of people doing drugs one night, but during their discussions he is discovered by James Vane when one woman recognizes him as Prince Charming. James almost kills him, but Dorian tries to convince him that he can't be Prince Charming who caused James' sister's death - how could he be responsible when he's so young and that happened 18 years ago? In the end there's a fight and James ends up dead.
There's another scene where Dorian plays the piano and the music is horrible, there's no beauty at all in it. The scene itself is like a dark dream, almost like a nightmare. It's a symbolic scene, showing all sorts of sins that Dorian supposedly committed during this period of time. There are chains and whips and drugs and guys doing obscene things, and many other sinful things.
One evening Henry visits Dorian. He asks if Dorian knows Alan Campbell. Dorian says he's an old friend. Henry tells him that the police has found Alan - he had committed suicide. Henry is also wondering what could have happened to Basil, since he hasn't returned from Paris yet. He's heard that Basil was seen outside Dorian's house on the evening he left London, so does Dorian know anything more? Dorian says he doesn't. Henry invites him to join him tomorrow evening in the city, and goes home. Filled with remorse when he realizes what his way of living has led to, Dorian desperately wants to change.
Dorian believes it to be enough to make the decision, the decision to live a better life, to move into the countryside perhaps and marry a farmer's daughter. But when he looks at the portrait again he sees that it continues to become more and more hideous. He wonders what to do to be free from his past sinful life at last. He realizes that he needs to destroy the painting. So he grabs a knife and attacks it. When he does, he himself is struck to the ground.
His servant comes into the room to see a lifeless form on the floor. When the police arrives they find that it's an old and ugly man lying dead there, and the servant says he doesn't recognize him. But then they notice the painting on the wall - it has changed and now it looks exactly as when it was painted almost 20 years earlier. The scene fades out to a beautiful piece of music.
My thoughts and reflections
I can't describe the emotional chaos within me after I watched this play for the first time. I was overwhelmed by everything and it took some time for me to get my thoughts straight.
There were some incidents during the shows, which I loved because that's the special thing about a live stageplay.
- There are several scenes where Dorian plays the piano, but Yuma is usually faking it (he fakes it very well, though!). However, there's one time when he plays the piano for real: when he sings the love song Little Melody ～あふれる想い～ to Sybil. I must say I was impressed by the performance. Yuma is no pianist but he practiced hard to be able to play this short piece live himself. Most shows I watched he played perfectly, but during the first show he played the wrong final accord. I felt bad for him then, but the other performances I watched he played better. Still very impressed by him - he both played and sang live, something even I can't do however much I practice!
- It was always fun to see the first meeting between Dorian and Henry. In this scene, Dorian is sitting at the piano and Henry approaches him from behind. Tokuyama, who played the part of Henry, did it differently every time. The second show I watched, he just bent forward so that his head was right beside Yuma's head. But the third show I watched, he blew him really hard in the neck, so Yuma jumped into the air because he was so surprised. It was hilarious!
- The dream-like scene with all those obscenities surprised me - to see something like that on a stage in Japan. Yuma looked positively crazy during this scene, so much that he almost scared me. The gay couple were most obscene during the second show, I could even feel myself blushing and then I almost giggled when I thought about Yuma having those things happening right behind him. I admire him for keeping a straight face and playing his part so well! Oh, and during the third show the sheet music fell from the piano and landed on his hands, and Yuma couldn't do anything about it. But then one of the gay guys behind him picked them up and in character caressed Yuma's head with the papers before putting them on the piano again. A nice save!
The highlights of the play were...I want to say "every scene with Yuma", but I guess I must narrow it down! My skin crawled every time Dorian was scared, angry or just plain crazy. Yuma is such a great actor, and his portrayal of Dorian was truly impressive. As Dorian gradually becomes more and more wicked and crazy, Yuma gradually shows this more and more. Yuma has always had a very expressive face, and that's perfect for acting. It was so fascinating to see him play a character like Dorian. His crazy face scared me! And then he can change his facial expressions seamlessly between calm happiness and angry craziness. Combined with his natural way of delivering his lines he's one of the most skilled actors-who-are-not-trained-actors that I've ever seen.
But some of my favorite scenes include these:
- While Basil is painting the portrait, he asks Dorian to "please, turn your head slightly more to the right" and then physically puts Dorian's head as he wants him to hold it.
- The scene where Dorian performs the love song for Sibyl. It's so beautiful, and I love Yuma's voice so much! Still waiting for a single release...
- The scene where Dorian first discovers the change in the painting. He's so scared while trying to find out how it's become like this, and when he realizes he says to himself "If I go on living like this, am I heading to Heaven or to Hell?!" A very emotional scene.
- I loved the scene where Dorian murdered Basil. This is the moment when there's no turning back and Dorian's soul is irreparably ruined. And the change in character that Yuma shows in this scene was his best moment of acting in the whole play. In the beginning of the scene he's friendly and invites his friend for a drink and a chat. Then he becomes worried when Basil starts talking about rumors and he doesn't want to hear about it. And then when Basil keeps talking and doesn't heed Dorian's warning that he's going too far and should shut up, he gets more and more angry. Until he finally snaps and decides to show his friend who he truly is. And then when Basil is desperate to save his poor soul and is on the verge of going crazy himself from what he's seen and heard, Dorian kills him in cold rage. And after he's done so, he pretends to talk to him like best friends, in case his servant overhears. And by now he looks fanatically crazy, so scary eyes! And a truly impressive performance by Yuma.
- The final scene is very emotionally strong. I was afraid the hideous painting would give me nightmares (luckily I was spared that), and Yuma played the part of a distressed and remorseful Dorian perfectly. And then he died (since he killed his soul, the painting), and the painting was restored to its earlier beauty. And that painting truly was beautiful. And the music was beautiful. And my eyes are even filled with tears as I recall this scene now.
After the last show, all the other actors said so many nice things to and about Yuma during the curtain call. I was so happy to hear them praise him! And Yara was apparently there and watched that show! I could hear people around me whisper that they saw him in the back. That pleased me a lot, since they are so close, Yuma and Yara.
Well, I don't know what more to say about The Picture of Dorian Gray, so I'll just post a photo from the curtain call where he looks happy instead of crazy. There were several scenes during the play when Yuma was happy and smiled, and as always, a happily smiling Yuma is the most beautiful Yuma!
Dorian Gray - Nakayama Yuma (Johnny's)
Basil Hallward - Kim Sungrak
Henry "Harry" Wotton - Tokuyama Hidenori
Sibyl Vane - Maihane Mimi
James Vane - Nakada Hiroki (Johnny's Jr)