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 Marine’s 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 The Dick Cavett Show in 1978.
9 thoughts on “Diversions & Delights | When Vincent Price scored a theatrical triumph playing Oscar Wilde”
Here is one of the very few video excerpts of Vincent performing as Wilde, from a Dick Cavett Show appearance. Why, oh why, didn’t someone video record the entire thing?! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mB47pnWW5hE&t=7s
Wonderful to see this my Husband always told me about this play, He loved it. He described it well
Did Mr. Price perform this in Washington, DC, in the late 1970s? I recall him doing DC radio ads then, altho I don’t remember for what.
Yes, I saw Vincent Price perform this work at Ford’s Theater in Washington, DC. I think it was 1979, give or take a year.
Yes. Me too. 1979 at Ford’s Theater in D.C. One of the most memorable nights of theater in my life.
I was working as a stagehand at a small local theater when he performed this piece.
As he walked off stage I happened to be standing behind a curtain in the wings and startled him. He gasped and said, “My! You scared me to death!”
I replied, “So we’re even!”
He grasped my hand and we laughed so hard the audience heard us and wondered what was happening.
He took time to talk with us backstage for a while. Classiest guy I ever met.
He brought D&D to the College of Wooster in 1980 when I was a freshman. I was in local community theater at the time. So after the performance, one of my fellow actors, a townie, invite me to the afterparty at the local country club. Other than being utterly tongue-tied when i was presented to him, I will never forget how his eyes bored right through you!
I saw this play at one of the Claremont Colleges in the late 1070’s. Price gave perhaps the best performance I have ever seen live at that time. I had no idea how great an actor he was up until then. He was amazing!
Does anyone know where in nyc this was performed in early January 1980 in Manhattan? I saw it then and indirectly met my husband due to my attendance.