BWW Review: Romance is Reborn at THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST WITH ZOMBIES

BWW Review: Romance is Reborn at THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST WITH ZOMBIES

After my breakup with the dreaded ex, I'd completely sworn off dating. It freed up so much of my time; allowing me to dedicate myself to things that mattered like Amazon Prime Shipping and binging on Netflix. With the exception of some mild, manipulative flirtation with the barista who never charged me for my daily extra, EXTRA sweet tea-lemonade, I was outwardly romantically indifferent. I was dead inside and resigned to live my life vicariously through various feisty television heroines.

And then I met George.

He certainly wasn't the typical type of guy I'd go out with. He didn't talk much and his gait was really slow. Sometimes he was kind of grabby, and his eating habits could be unsettling. I don't usually associate with his type, but on one particular afternoon everything changed.

I was out for a walk and he was following me. I could have killed him, but he thrust an advert for freeFall Theatre's "THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST WITH ZOMBIES" toward me. He must've known that I had a weakness for Oscar Wilde and the theatre. So despite being advised against it, I decided to go on my very first date with a zombie.

George got us great seats, though the seating arrangement for this production should allow for unobstructed views from either side.

BWW Review: Romance is Reborn at THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST WITH ZOMBIES

The set, designed by Eric Davis, seemed smaller than I'd anticipated. I wondered how they'd manage to transport the audience from location to location to location in three acts. George merely groaned when I asked him, as if I should have known better than to question what could be done within the framing of a freeFall production. Two ten-minute intermissions moved us from a London flat to a garden, and later to a chapel. Walls were moved, set pieces replaced, lighting changed; all with a swiftness that highlighted the versatility of the scenic design.

Though the play remains true to Wilde's original text, this version (adapted by director, Eric Davis) features allusions to 1895's "London Plague of the Undead." If you are unfamiliar with the piece, the text changes are seamless. If you do know the show, then it's fun to catch the added portions to the original plot.

The story is brought to us by a well-oiled cast. Algernon Moncrieff (Daniel Schwab) was charming, witty, and ate as though he had a tapeworm. The entire play could've rested on his exchanges with Jack Worthing (Nick Lerew). The two shared genuine camaraderie, with just a hint of disdain.

Stolen glances between Lerew and Kelly Pekar, who played Gwendolen Fairfax, dance around in my head even now. I immediately want them to be together; Lady Bracknell (Susan Haldeman) be damned - though she is both believably intimidating and frightening in her own right.

Algernon's love interest is Cecily Cardew, presented by Maya Naff who is a joy to watch. She is bright eyed, romantic, full of wonder. Her definition of history is rather warped, but it is part of the fun of her character.

Matthew McGee plays different servants on either plot of land. Though the position remains the same, the characters' personalities and development are vastly different. What lies ahead for Lane, may not be the same for Merriman. McGee is funniest with small bits of action or speech; his dry sarcasm as Lane, or his offering of Sugahhhh as Merriman.

The costumes, designed by Amy J. Cianci, are exquisite. Lush fabrics, hints of lace, ornate hats; the steampunk style was expertly crafted in this production. One of the most memorable costumes was that of Miss Prism (Jennifer Christa Palmer), a resident badass. Palmer yielded weapons in such a way that I would feel completely at ease having her protect me from zombies, or "ambulators" as they are referred to in the show. The numerous weapons, also steampunk inspired, were designed by Matt Davis.

The ambulators were similar to what we know of today: slow moving, vicious, and terrifying. Disclaimer: George isn't nearly as brutal or scary. Of all the ambulators on stage, the smallest (Will Garrabrant) was my favorite. Sure he wanted to kill, but he was delightfully precious in his rage.

Also worth noting is Larry Alexander as Dr. Chasuble. From romantic interest, to fighter, to a key factor in bringing the story to a close in the third act; Alexander is everything.

It takes a strong production to make a lengthy piece enjoyable from start to finish. Every aspect of EARNEST meshed together to create a show that was funny, exciting, and aesthetically pleasing. It also brought two people who couldn't be more different together. Bringing me to this play was a good choice on George's part. I think I'll see him again. If he isn't killed by a man whose legal name may or may not be Earnest.

BWW Review: Romance is Reborn at THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST WITH ZOMBIES

freeFall Theatre's THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST runs until November 1, 2015. You can also get $20 tickets to the Halloween matinee this Saturday, 10/31 at 2pm! The theatre is located at 6099 Central Ave, St Petersburg, FL 33710. (727) 498-5205

Photos courtesy of freeFall Theatre.

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