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BWW Review: THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST Provides a Good Dose of Welcome Frivolity, at Artists Rep

There are many reasons to go to the theatre, but one that gets overlooked too often is simply to have a good time -- to laugh, enjoy yourself, and forget about the world outside. That kind of escape is exactly what you'll get at Artists Rep's delightful production of Oscar Wilde's THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST. That, and the pleasure of watching an incredible all-female cast totally rock some really killer hats.

"Why an all-female cast?" you might be wondering. And the answer seems to be, "Why not?" Other than featuring women in all of the parts, the production is done as an straight up 1890s period piece, allowing Wilde's words and wit to roam free in their natural habitat. The non-standard casting occasionally gives Wilde's social commentary an extra-amusing twist, and I suspect that if the playwright were alive today, he would approve.

The plot revolves around Jack Worthing and Algernon Moncrieff's attempts to escape the obligations of society. Deceptions abound and are uncovered, people fall in love, and everything turns out right in the end.

Kailey Rhodes as
Gwendolyn Fairfax

The super cast features many Artists Rep regulars, including Linda Alper as the puffed up, overbearing Lady Bracknell (a role, the playbill tells us, frequently played in drag); Sarah Lucht, who is very funny as the servants Lane and Merriman; and Ayanna Berkshire as the scheming Algernon. It also features a sensational Portland newcomer who I first discovered at this year's Fertile Ground Festival and who I'm thrilled to see on a mainstage -- Kailey Rhodes as Gwendolyn Fairfax. Ms. Rhodes is sublime. Her comic timing is perfect and every scene she's in seems to shine just a little brighter.

Now for the hats -- actually, all of the costumes. Bobby Brewer Wallin went all out in this department, with dresses that look like they just walked out of a fashion museum and hats (made by local milliner Elizabeth Rohloff) that would be at home at the Kentucky Derby. Thanks to the costumes and Megan Wilkerson's bold set, the show was as much fun to look at as it was to watch.

Obviously, I loved this show. My only complaint about is that it went by too quickly. I felt like I'd just taken my seat and it was intermission already. I'd have happily luxuriated in the frivolity a while longer.

THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST runs through June 11. I highly recommend you make plans to see it. More info and tickets here.

Photo credit: David Kinder

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From This Author Krista Garver