BWW Review: THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST at The Everyman
"I regard the theatre as the greatest of all art forms, the most immediate way in which a human being can share with another the sense of what it is to be a human being." ~Oscar Wilde
It's an evening of wild and witty entertainment at The Everyman's THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST. Director Joseph Ritsch choreographs this high farce of bumbling aristocrats, twisted banter, and baffling relationships with great panache. The superb cast revels in the wordplay that skewers the rigidity of Victorian society and refers to the hypocrisy that exists in all eras.
This is the uncensored version of Oscar Wilde's last play which speaks to its upper crust theater patrons while supplying an entire subtext of double entendres, ambiguous identities and Victorian slang meant for the hidden gay audience.
Dapper bachelor Algernon (Danny Gavigan) and his stalwart friend Jack (Jaysen Wright) find their single life of leisure upended when they become romantically entangled with the beauteous Gwendolyn (Katie Kleiger)and the charming Cecily (Paige Hernandez). Gwendolyn's mother, Lady Bracknell (a very handsome Bruce Randolph Nelson), also known as Aunt Augusta to Algernon, attempts to impose proper social behavior on this group of wayward young people. The group of townies takes their troubles to the country where Jack's ward Cecily resides under the tutelage of the prim Miss Prism (Helen Hedman) who seems to have discovered her flirtatious side with Reverend Chausable (Wil Love). Observing all this ridiculousness are two long-suffering butlers Merriman/Lane (Carl Schurr).
Gavigan is Wilde come back to life playing the flamboyant dilettante to perfection against the flawless foil of Wright, who loses all sorts of identities along the way to romance. Kleiger is delightful in every way as her fashionable heroine deftly finds a way to side step the rules without losing a ruffle. Hernandez is artfully naïve to get what she wants. In fact, Wilde writes assertive women despite all the corsets and crinoline. Nelson is stupendous as the imposing Lady Bracknell. He wears the glorious garb of his character like royalty and indeed dominates the stage with verbal precision and glowering glances. It's too bad Wilde didn't write another play all about Augusta so we could see more. Hedman, Chuasable and Schurr round out this comedic cast with aplomb.
It's a high octane production with fantastic Pop-Art Victoriana sets by Daniel Ettinger. The colorful backdrops and the frothy costumes by David Burdick punch up the production into a perfect mix of vintage and modern. Wilde subtitled the play, "A Trivial Comedy for Serious People." Everyman captures this paradox in their cleverly creative adaption of a classic with modern sensibilities.
THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST plays now through December 30th at The Everyman Theatre located at 315 W. Fayetteville St. For more information, go to everymantheatre.org or call 410-752-2208.
From This Author Tina Collins
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