Review: THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST at Irish Classical Theatre

ICTC Breathes New Life into Classic Wilde

By: Jun. 09, 2023
Review: THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST at Irish Classical Theatre

It's good to be reminded that there was a time when manners mattered, albeit at the expense of social end economic hierarchy. Oscar Wilde's delightful THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST, now playing at Buffalo's Irish Classical Theatre Company , is a gem of a production  worthy of it's own notoriety. 

Written in 1895, EARNEST proved that words mattered, sometime moreso than actions. Wilde's commentary on society are barely hidden, as his two young couples often expound on their beliefs in marriage, education and love. There is intrinsic comedy in knowing what should be said and done, but doing quite the opposite. Living dual lives is perfectly acceptable, as long as it is done convincingly, and with manners!

Stage Director Kristen Tripp Kelley has breathed new life into a work that has become a staple in most repertory companies. In her program notes, Kelley is exceedingly aware of Wilde's own personal life, being punished  and imprisoned for acts of gross indecency (aka being a practicing homosexual in Victorian England). Hidden or coded language abounds, and Kelley allows the cast to have an extra wink and a nod when such double entendres are clearly present. Actor Ben Michael Moran, as Algernon, is a near spitting image of Wilde himself, complete with long curly locks and an effete presence that was often associated with, and accepted by, the upper crust of English society. And there is no subtlety in the choosing the name Earnest as a title character.

Gender roles, while clearly delineated in the script,  have been blurred. The butler is played by Charmagne Chi, doing double duty as Merriman and Lane, and she appears to be having a fine time with her droll delivery and short song during the scene change.

The most appealing gender swap comes as Chris Kelly dons the elaborate gowns of none other than Lady Bracknell. A man in drag has become most fashionable and accepted--having to look no further back than 2011 with Brian Bedford played the same imperious old maid at a successful Stratford production that later moved to Broadway. And last December Sir Ian McKellen earned raves for his take on Mother Goose in a holiday panto that toured the UK.  Kelly is perfectly cast, strutting with authority and using a basso type voice for emphasis, rather than a more predictable high tone register. Kelly's declamatory speeches and pronouncements command respect, and become all the sillier in drag.

In his Irish Classical Theatre debut, Josh Wilde is charming as the young Jack Worthing. (that is Jack in the country and Earnest in the city). Wilde (apparently no relation to the author) finds all of the blustery doings of a well-to-do young gentleman with ease. He is a beguiling foil to Moran's more brash and overbearing Algernon Moncrief. The two men play off each other beautifully, as Moran incessantly stuffs his face while Wilde attempts his own charade. 

Renee Landrigan is the pretty as a picture Cecily Cardew, the ward of Jack.  Capeles is pert and perky, skipping about while extolling opinion in roulades that would make Mr. Oscar Wilde proud. 

Melinda Capeles is Gwendolen Fairfax, the niece of Lady Bracknell, and the love interest of Jack. Clearly having been born into a much more rigid city atmosphere. Capeles brings her own formality to the comedy that ensues when the two young ladies eventually meet.

Jenn Stafford turns in a fine performance as the book smart school marm Miss Prism, whose task it is to educate young Cecily in the country. But behind her spectacles she holds a long held secret that is the perfect plot twist to wrap up the proceedings. Stafford's attempts to keep Cecily focused on her studies are countered by her inner desires.... to land a man who happens to be the local Reverend Chasuble, played by Vincenzo McNeill. The two speak in references and literary illusions, making their burning  affections more proper. McNeill was not always as comfortable with the English accent, which  veered more towards America's deep south.

Vivian Del Bello has designed some lovely costumes to complement the very basic scenic design of Chris Cavanagh. The songs used to begin the opening of each of the two acts, while adding some atmosphere, felt overly long and superfluous..

Whether you consider Wilde's masterpiece a comedy, farce or satire, it continues to be charming and incessantly relevant to contemporary audiences. His astute observations ring true and his brilliance as a wordsmith have allowed the very creative team at Irish Classical to produce a production worthy of another viewing of this beloved chestnut.

THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST plays at Buffalo's Irish Classical Theatre through June 25, 2023. Contact for more information

2023 Regional Awards


Alyssa Wray And Sidney DuPont to Lead SISTER ACT at Starring Buffalo Photo
Alyssa Wray And Sidney DuPont to Lead SISTER ACT at Starring Buffalo

Get ready for a powerful and hilarious performance as Alyssa Wray and Sidney DuPont take the stage in Starring Buffalo's production of Sister Act at Shea's 710 Theater. Don't miss this sparkling tribute to friendship, filled with gospel music and outrageous comedy.

Rochester Fringe Festival Cancels Second Night Of AstroFringe Photo
Rochester Fringe Festival Cancels Second Night Of AstroFringe

Based on forecasts supplied by meteorologists, the 2023 Rochester Fringe Festival has determined that the approach of Tropical Storm Ophelia, currently causing heavy rains on the east coast of the United States, is driving significant cloud cover toward upstate New York.

Review: THE COLOR PURPLE at Sheas 710 Theatre Photo
Review: THE COLOR PURPLE at Shea's 710 Theatre

Something magical is happening at Shea's 710 Theatre. And it's a joy to report that the local talent onstage is simply astounding. Along with the Ujima Theatre Company and Second Generation Theatre, Shea's is producing a spine-tingling production of the musical THE COLOR PURPLE.

Congressman Joe Morelle to Join County Executive Adam Bello at Parcel 5 to Introduce Roche Photo
Congressman Joe Morelle to Join County Executive Adam Bello at Parcel 5 to Introduce Rochester Fringe Shows

Congressman Joe Morelle will join County Executive Adam Bello at Parcel 5 to introduce Rochester Fringe Shows on Saturday evening.

From This Author - Michael Rabice

Michael Rabice has over  40 years of experience attending plays, musicals and opera all over the world. He is a frequent performer in opera and has appeared with the Glimmerglass Opera, Artp... Michael Rabice">(read more about this author)


#repshow# in[i]# Rocky Horror Show
OFC Creations Theatre (10/12-10/31)
#repshow# in[i]# Hell-oween
First Look Buffalo Theatre Company (10/06-10/21)
#repshow# in[i]# One Man, Two Guvnors
Aurora Players (10/06-10/22)
#repshow# in[i]# Funny Girl
Shea's Performing Arts Center (2/13-2/18)
#repshow# in[i]# Belfast Girls
Irish Classical Theatre Company (9/22-10/15)
#repshow# in[i]# ROMEO & JULIET
The Company Theatre (10/13-10/29)

Recommended For You