Review: THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST At The City Theatre Delivers Delightful Satire!

Don’t miss the classic comedic genius of Oscar Wilde now playing in ATX thru June 18th, 2023

By: Jun. 06, 2023
Review: THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST At The City Theatre Delivers Delightful Satire!
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Review: THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST At The City Theatre Delivers Delightful Satire! The City Theatre's production of Oscar Wilde's classic comedy, The Importance of Being Earnest, successfully captures the essence of Victorian England through its meticulous attention to detail in set design, costumes, and overall ambiance. The simple yet charming set design effectively transports the audience to the era, while the period-appropriate costumes and headwear add to the authenticity of the production. The seamless set change during intermission further enhances the experience by transitioning smoothly from the bustling city to the serene English countryside.

One of Wilde's genius aspects in this play is his use of comedy and satire to invert the values of everyday life, which becomes a notable feature of the production. He skillfully mocks serious topics such as death, love, marriage, and religion while treating trivial matters, like English teatime, with exaggerated importance. Gwendolen Fairfax's words "In matters of grave importance, style, not sincerity, is the vital thing” embody the absurdity of Victorian society and highlight the emphasis placed on appearances and social decorum over genuine emotions and integrity. Through comedy and satire, Wilde manages to entertain the audience while simultaneously critiquing the restrictive social norms of the society of his time.

"I hope you have not been leading a double life, pretending to be wicked and being good all the time. That would be hypocrisy.” - Lady Bracknell.

Review: THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST At The City Theatre Delivers Delightful Satire!
Zachariah Lenton as Algermon Moncrieff and Justin Heller as Jack Worthing
PC: The City Theatre​​​​​

The two main characters, Jack Worthing and Algernon Moncrieff, lead double lives to escape the societal pressures imposed on men during that time. They represent different sides of the same coin and serve as Wilde's vehicles for criticizing the society of his era. Algernon is idle, indulgent, and playful, and uses his alter-ego, Bunbury, to avoid responsibilities and social commitments. His character embodies the hypocrisy and selfishness prevalent among the Victorian elite. Zachariah Lenton as Algernon, is pure mischief, however, the actor's natural charm won my heart as quickly as he ate that first cucumber sandwich. Mr. Lenton masterfully gives us a character that views society through the lens of wit and sarcasm and he doesn’t miss a beat as he puts on the many masks that Algernon wears throughout the play. 

"The truth is rarely pure and never simple. Modern life would be very tedious if it were either, and modern literature a complete impossibility!” - Algernon Moncrieff.

Jack is inherently earnest and moral. Despite creating a fictional brother named Earnest to visit his love interest, Gwendolen Fairfax, in the city, Jack possesses a conscience and genuinely aims to do the right thing. Even Miss Prism, Cecily's governess, claims to “know no one who has a higher sense of duty and responsibility”. In the end, Wilde redeems Jack by making his lies come true, thus earning him the name of Earnest. Justin Heller effectively portrays Jack’s honesty and vulnerability, affording the character the forgiveness and redemption intended by the author.

The female characters, Gwendolen Fairfax (Maddie Scanlan) and Cecily Cardew (Angelina Castillo) serve as objects of affection for the leading men and further emphasize the play's mockery of societal norms. Gwendolen, an aristocratic socialite, exudes cleverness and poise, while Cecily embodies a hopeless romantic with a modern flair. Both actresses deliver captivating performances that claim the attention and hearts of the audience from the moment they come on stage.

"I do not approve of anything that tampers with natural ignorance. Ignorance is like a delicate exotic fruit; touch it and the bloom is gone.” - Lady Bracknell.

Review: THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST At The City Theatre Delivers Delightful Satire!
Wendy Zavaleta as Lady Bracknell, Maddie Scanlan as Gwendolen Fairfax,
and Justin Heller as Jack Worthing
PC: The City Theatre

Wendy Zavaleta, stands out in the cast for her regal, yet hilarious portrayal of Lady Bracknell. Through the use of exuberant costumes, facial expressions, and vocal inflection, she effectively drives home the sarcastic aspects of her role and the play. Lady Bracknell's thoughts on education, marriage proposals, and family situations illuminate the Victorian England upper class' ridicule of important values in modern society. Ms. Zavaleta provides a memorable performance that adds depth to the overall production.

Directed by Karen Sneed, The Importance of Being Earnest at The City Theatre is as posh and pleasant as an afternoon tea at a Victorian England country estate. While the production may have missed the opportunity to fully utilize over-the-top physicality and absurd comedy, it compensates with captivating performances that keep audiences laughing at all times. The ensemble of actors which includes: Patrick Schmidt as Lane, Emily Taylor as Miss Prism, Scot Friedman as Reverent Canon Chasuble, Bill Newchurch as Merriman, and Michael Rhea as Footman, breathe life into Wilde's witty and clever characters, making the play an enjoyable experience for audiences of all ages.

The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde

June 3 – 18. Thursday - Saturday 8:00 pm. Sunday 3 pm.

Genesis Creative Collective. 1507 Wilshire Blvd. Austin, TX 78722.

General Seating: $15-$18. Center Reserved $20-25. Group and student discounts.

Tickets 512-470-1100, info@citytheatreaustin.org or https://thecitytheatreaustin.simpletix.com/




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