Performances run through October 15.

By: Oct. 01, 2023

Over a century after its publication, Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest continues to delight audiences across the globe. Brimming with caustic humour and sly social commentary, this 1895 comedy follows the antics of two upper-crust London gentlemen, Algernon "Algie" Moncrieff and John “Jack” Worthing. As an inside joke, the friends share an alter ego: an enigmatic ladies’ man named Ernest. However, what begins as a harmless charade quickly spirals beyond the men’s control, threatening to sabotage their respective reputations and romances. 

Jackie Maxwell’s polished production stars Alexander Ariate as Algie and Jeff Lilico as Jack. Whether bantering with each other or monologuing, Ariate and Lilico paint an amusing picture of upper-class Victorian British life. Algie’s penchant for all things food (“I eat muffins when I’m sad!”) never fails to make the audience laugh, as do Jack’s fervent anecdotes about his unconventional early childhood. 

Another source of comic relief is Jack’s scatterbrained fiancée, Gwendolyn Fairfax (Amelia Sargisson). Though her rapid-fire speech is occasionally difficult to understand, she strikes comedic gold particularly in scenes shared with Gwendolyn’s foreboding mother, Lady Bracknell (Nadien Chu) and Cecily (Helen Belay), Jack’s newly 18-year-old ward. Rounding out the top-notch cast are Davina Stewart as Cecily’s mousy tutor, Miss Prism, Julien Arnold as the bumbling, Reverend Canon Chasuble, and Doug Mertz doubling as Algie’s and Cecily’s beleaguered butlers.  

Any narrative involving posh Victorian Brits requires a lavish period setting, and Michael Gianfrancesco’s intricate set delivers. Algie’s stylish apartment is perfectly colour-coded in shades of gold and dark green while Jack’s idyllic courtyard garden is complete with lush potted plants, manicured shrubs, and a fountain. Instead of evoking the Victorian era, the sets (along with Gianfrancesco’s striking costume design), appear to be inspired by the 1950s. The juxtaposition of these mid-century visuals with the stringent trappings of late Victorian high society translates beautifully on stage.

The Importance of Being Earnest is pure comedic mayhem and an unmissable night of theatre. Audiences can catch it at The Citadel’s intimate Maclab Theatre until October 15. 

Photo by Nanc Price for The Citadel Theatre’s production of The Importance of Being Earnest (2023), featuring Helen Belay and Alexander Ariate

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