BWW Review: Crown City Theatre Excels with EARNEST
The Importance of Being Earnest/
by Oscar Wilde//Crown City Theatre/directed by Michael J. Marchak/through March 31
What amazes me about Oscar Wilde''s classic The Importance of Being Earnest is how well it holds up. First performed in 1895 it is a wildly funny satire on Victorian manners and customs. Lady Bracknell (Michael Mullen, pictured above) abhors the very thought of any engagement of marriage of her niece to someone beneath her class, but as the play progresses, Wilde's take on the whole idea of marriage becomes far less serious. Changing one's identity to meet and date a woman is practiced with the utmost glee, akin to contemporary deceit and infidelity. Currently onstage at Crown City Theatre in NoHo, Earnest receives a terrific production, directed with flair by Michaerl J. Marchak and boasting a deliciously comedic cast.
Algernon Moncrieff (Bobby Slaski) and his best friend John Worthington (Hans Obma) take huge risks concerning their female prosepects. John, "Ernest", wants to marry Gwendolyn Fairfax (Ariel Barber), but, as already mentioned, Lady Bracknell refuses him. Algie is a bunburyist and goes off to the country, in the guise of visiting his dying friend Bunbury, a nonexistent person. When he meets Cecily Cardew (Megan Cochrane), he falls for her and convinces her that he is Ernest. Ernest shows up as his brother Jack, another invention, and tries to deceive everyone into believing that Ernest has died. Both men have lied and get themselves into extreme turmoil, but as the story turns out, John or Ernest is really Algie's brother, so everyone is happy including Lady Bracknell. Typical in Wilde's satires is mistaken identity that creates much confusion but, in spite of it, a happy ending unfolds for all.
Under Marchak's detailed direction, the actors paint deliciously broad strokes on the canvas of life in 19th century England. Slaski aand Obma (sharing their roles with Michael J. Marchak and Neil Unger respectively) are having a ball with these roles. Their playfulness abounds throughout. Barber as Gwendolyn (sharing the role with Riegan Sage) is delightfully uppercrust as is Mullen as Aunt Augusta or Lady Bracknell. Having a man in drag play Bracknell does not alter the comedy which is already over the top as written. Mullen plays it for all it's worth...as a woman, and it is totally believable. Cochrane as Cecily (sharing with Ariel Barber) is prim and proper like Gwendolyn and totally incredulous of the goingson. Will Potter plays both butlers with efficiency and rectitude. John Sala makes the Rev Chasauble quite humane and Mouchette van Helsdingen completes the cast in fine form as the stern Miss Prism.
Joanne Lamb does excellent work in transforming the set pieces to make three different decors work, and Mullen's costumes are lovely to look at, especially the gowns for the women.
I delighted in listening to Oscar Wilde's witty comments like "As a man sows, let him reap" or "Bitter trials are blessings in disguise" or "Arguments are vulgar and often convincing". It is most definitely style over sincerity as Wilde's comedy still pulls gales of laughter from audiences more than a hundred years later. Thinking of farce and how it is so popular in comedy today, it is grande to see how well the Brits fared with it...and to see it so well performed by American actors. Go and enjoy at Crown City Theatre through March 31!
(photo credit: Chris Greenwell)