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`An Ideal Husband' to open Wednesday at Pioneer Theatre

"An Ideal Husband," a 102-year-old Oscar Wilde comedy which became a big hit in both London and on Broadway during its 1996 revival, comes to the Lees Main Stage of Pioneer Memorial Theatre beginning Wednesday, Oct. 29.

The Pioneer Theatre Company production, guest-directed by Victor Pappas, includes two actors who understudied their respective roles on Broadway first.British-American actor Dominick Hawksley will play the witty and elegant Lord Goring, with New York actress Holly Cate as Lord Goring's romantic interest, Mabel Chiltern.

Hawksley, a United States native who spent most of his life in England, began his association with "An Ideal Husband" when he was cast as Vicomte de Nanjac - and understudy for Lord Goring - in Sir Peter Hall's acclaimed British revival in 1992. This production toured for three months, then played for another six months in London's West End theater district.

Around Christmas of 1995, the original London cast, including Hawksley, was called to remount Hall's production. This time it opened in the West End, then crossed the Atlantic to Broadway in the spring of 1996. It ran in New York, to great critical acclaim, for nine months.

In all those months of understudying (and occasionally stepping in as Lord Goring) Hawksley's passion to play the role has never dimmed.

"It's a marvelous character - Wilde often speaks through Goring in the play. But as an understudy you're constrained in your interpretation," Hawksley says. But taking the part with PTC gives him the chance "to work on the role from the beginning; to go through the whole process."

Cast opposite Hawksley in the PTC production is Holly Cate, who also understudied her role - Mabel Chiltern - on Broadway. She also played the roles of Mrs. Marchmont and Lady Barford.

In a case of life imitating art, the two actors began a real-life romance shortly after the Broadway show closed and have been together since.

Fate, talent and a little luck brought them the opportunity to play opposite each other again in Salt Lake City with PTC.

"An Ideal Husband" takes place in turn-of-the-century London, in the opulent salons of Victorian England's social elite. Robert Chiltern (Ezra Barnes), an ambitious Cabinet minister, finds both his reputation and his marriage threatened when an unscrupulous woman blackmails him with evidence of an early act of malfeasance.

The Chilterns' dearest friend - the witty, dandified Lord Goring - comes to the rescue, skillfully negotiating the treacherous waters of blackmail and suspicion, while revealing to the couple the importance of charity and forgiveness.

Barnes was last seen here as Valentine in PTC's "Arcadia" and Johnny in "Misalliance."

Other New York actors in the cast include Kathleen McCall (whose recent PTC credits include "Noises Off," "A Tale of Two Cities," and "Twelfth Night"); Leslie Hendrix as the unscrupulous Mrs. Cheveley, Ward Asquith (in PTC's "Born Yesterday") as the Earl of Caversham, and Libby George (last seen here as Lotte Schoen in "Lettice and Lovage") as Lady Markby.

Familiar PTC regulars will include Max Robinson as Vicomte de Nanjac, Anne Stewart Mark as the Countess of Basildon, and Richard Mathews as Phipps, with Salt Lakers Mark Gollaher, Justin Ivie and Trish Reading in other roles.

Technical credits include scenery design by PTC resident designer George Maxwell, lighting by Peter L. Willardson, costumes by Carol Wells-Day, hair/makeup byk Cynthia L. McCourt and incidental music composed by James Prigmore.

Performances on the Lees Main Stage of Pioneer Memorial Theatre (300 S. 1340 East), will be at 7:30 p.m. Mondays-Thursdays and 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, Oct. 29-Nov. 15, with matinees at 2 p.m. on Saturdays.

All seats are reserved. Tickets range from $14 to $32. Free parking is adjacent to the theater and in other nearby U. of U. parking lots. There are discounts available for groups of 20 or more. For reservations or further information, call the PMT box office at 581-6961.