Despite having appeared on the stage throughout his career, Vincent Price’s greatest theatrical triumph was undoubtedly his one-man show, Diversions & Delights, in which he played the playwright and author Oscar Wilde.
Originally titled Oscar Wilde: Well Chosen Enemies by dramatist John Gay (while waiting out the famed Writers Guild of America strike), the play is set in a Parisian concert hall on the Rue de la Pépinière in 1899 on the evening of 28 November 1899, a year before Wilde’s death, at the age of 46.
In an attempt to earn some much-needed money, Wilde (using the moniker Sebastian Melmoth and persevering with an inner ear infection as well as other maladies) is speaking to the audience about his life, his works and, in Act Two, his love for Lord Alfred Douglas.
When Diversions & Delights opened in San Francisco at the Marines’ Memorial Theatre on July 11, 1977, critics raved over Price’s performance.
‘A delight, witty and moving’
(Clive Barnes, New York Post)
‘Vincent Price is a master’
(Wall Street Journal)
‘A virtuoso performance’
(New York Post)
“Vincent Price is a ‘Wilde’ delight”
The play was transferred to Broadway at the Eugene O’Neill Theatre in 1978, with previews beginning on 10 April, followed by a 13-performance run from April 12-22 in 1978. In the summer of 1979, Price performed it at the Tabor Opera House in Leadville, Colorado, on the same stage from which Wilde had spoken to local miners about art almost 100 years prior.
Over the next few years, Vincent would go on to give 800 performances in 300 cities, both in the US and in Australia, which gave Price the chance to visit his third wife Coral Browne’s hometown in Melbourne and also Perth on the West coast. Click on the photo below to hear a 22-second TV ad about Vincent’s Australian tour.
LISTEN TO THE PLAY IN TWO PARTS
Here’s a rare recording of the production recorded at the Westwood Playhouse on 2 November, 1982.
WATCH A RARE CLIP
Courtesy of the Vincent Price Exhibit, here’s the only known audio-visual record of Price performing this role on The Dick Cavett Show in 1978.