The witty, classic satire “The Importance of Being Earnest” takes jabs at the pretentious Victorian era on an alluring stage at Everyman Theatre. Their impressive production, under the direction of Joseph Ritsch, takes Oscar Wilde’s most famous work and constructs an elegant razz, brimming with sumptuous aesthetics and delivering the comedic goods one expects with this beloved play. I was first impacted by the charming stage, which set the arrogant tone of the lead character, Algernon Moncrieff (Danny Gavigan) with enormous and stylish portraits of himself, but with a 20th century modern “bachelor pad” twist. Set designer Daniel Ettinger put together a vibe that was very pleasing to the eye from the very onset.
…what makes this production a
must seeare the seasoned and immensely talented actors.
The adage “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder” certainly has a double entendre, and it is never more evident than in the fragrant, upper crust dialogue (much thanks to Gary Logan for ensuring proper dialect articulation), which Wilde most certainly crafted with the intent to flail the high society of his day. The whole notion of living a double life is rather dreadful, from a societal point of view, yet it makes for a hilarious play. It’s truly remarkable to experience this story on the stage with an absolutely wonderful cast of actors. The wording was free of blunder, one might say, although the actions in this eccentric comedy reveals quite profusely the humor in the most serious of occasions, such as courtship, the solecism of trust using phony identities, and, of course, the social posturing for a place among the elite. What could go wrong? Everything! It’s precisely why it is irresistibly entertaining and completely relevant by all measures.
Essentially, what makes this production a must see are the seasoned and immensely talented actors. Some notable mentions include Katie Klieger, who plays the refined Gwendolen Fairfax, Jaysen Wright as the perplexed John Worthing, Bruce Nelson as the brutish Lady Bracknell (I really didn’t know it was him until I looked at the program notes), Paige Hernandez as the starry-eyed Cecily Cardew, and Carl Schurr as the irritable butlers Lane and Merriman. Of course, Danny Gavigan as Algernon was the star of this show and he was masterful in his role as the wolf bachelor always on the hunt and always quick in delivering facetious wit. I was utterly fascinated by the actors’ meticulous course in their form of speech. Seemingly every word was in a rhythm and sounded quite natural. Perhaps the hilarity of it all made it a much smoother task. Whatever the case, this performance was marvelous and extravagant.
Ritsch and his creative team have produced an offbeat, socially ancient world whose rules are generally as appalling today as perhaps today’s would be to the people of the Victorian time period –with the stipulation, of course, this is hardly the point. Wilde’s brilliance is admirably illuminated in this performance and warrants an earnest applause. The beautiful costumes were designed by David Burdick –with the wig extraordinaire Denise O’Brien completing the “look.” Stage manager Cat Wallis ensured transitions and all movement went smooth (and it did), the fantabulous lighting by Harold Burgess was superb, and Roc Lee managed the incredible sound and music.
This show is fun for adults to ponder the whims of social approval and to relish classic Wilde delivered so exceptionally well. The silliness runs deep in this story –to the point of absurdity. However, it does resolve well, with a neat conclusion to tie it all together with a silk bow. Oscar Wilde wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.
Running Time: Approximately 2½ hours with two short intermissions.
“The Importance of Being Earnest” is playing at Everyman Theatre in Baltimore, MD now until December 30, 2018. For more information and tickets, please visit Everyman Theatre by clicking here.