Saturday, September 21, 2013

REVIEW: Magenta's "The Importance of Being Earnest" is Presented in Earnest

Oscar Wilde's "The Importance of Being Earnest" is perennial classic. A theatrical chestnut as it were. I love the patter play and can't get enough of it. Ironically, I may get my fill this year as it is being performed at two theaters this season. It opened Friday night at Magenta Theater and will be offered later this year by another.

I also recently reread the work. It's fascinating. Wilde is one of favorite writers. His work is full of double meaning and playful patter. It's also rich on social commentary. Just too much fun.

The plot isn't essential; they play is about the dialogue. However, like many Shakespearean works, it is about mistaken identities. It's a humorous romp through London’s high society. Part satire, part comedy of manners, this is Wilde's most enduring and popular play.

The consummate darling of London society, Wilde provides an inside look at the Victorian self-righteous moralism and hypocrisy. I won't tell you more because I want you to be pleasantly surprised.

Presented In Earnest

Samuel Summer as Algernon and Ashley Moore as Cecily.
Once again Magenta presents a delightful show, though not quite up to the usual standards. The direction, by Curtis Hope is good, but adequate blocking was sometimes lacking. (Especially in the last act when the actors stood together for a long time in a U-shape down left--hardly a good viewing angle for half of the theater.)

There was also a distinct dichotomy in the cast. The principles were all quite impressive and carried their British accents well. The bit players not so much.

Aaron Filyaw as John Worthing P.D. was ideal. His performance was certainly in earnest and his boyish charm, keen British accent and comic expression were a joy to experience. Very professional!

Katie Skinner as Gwendolyn Fairfax, Ashley Moore as Cecily Cardew were also standouts. Especially entertaining were Skinner and Moore in their verbal "cat fight." Both have impeccable comic skills, facial expression and body language.

Tammie Neill as Lady Bracknell and Samuel Summer as Algernon Moncrieff gave delightful performances. Also in the cast: Reba Hoffman as Miss Prism, Mike Nettleton as Rev.Cannon Chasuble D.D., Joe Balin as Lane, and John Thompson as Merriman.

My one piece of advice to the leads: Wait for the laughter so lines don't get lost.

The Importance of Detail

The ladies costumes were nicely done. Some of the men's clothing relied upon obvious contemporary, rather than period, constructs. The set dressing, too, lacked period authenticity. So much more could have been done. [You'd think with a royalty-free play more budget could be used for the set.]

Especially nice was the "Impressionist" garden backdrop. And once again the set-changing crew was delightful. The stage actors playing the butlers, along with a few female stagehands dressed as maids, did a bang up job. The lighting was good and, thanks to a smashing running crew, the show went off without a hitch.

If you're not familiar with this work you need to see it. The audience found it a hoot and so did I. Click the above Magenta Theater link for more info and tickets.

By Gregory E. Zschomler
Photo provided.

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