Written by Daniella Litvak
The Importance of Being Earnest is Oscar Wilde’s Victorian era farce about how Jack Worthing, a respectable man in the country, felt the need to invent a wicked alter ego (“Ernest”), so he could escape his dutiful country life and have wild sexy fun in London. Jack as Ernest has fallen in love and proposed to Gwendoline Fairfax. She accepted because it has been her dream to marry a man named Ernest. (The name inspires “utmost confidence.”) Unfortunately, Gwendolne’s Mother, Lady Bracknell, does not approve of the match. Meanwhile, Jack’s friend, who is also Gwendoline’s cousin, Algernon Moncreif decided to borrow the Ernest persona in order to meet Cecily Cardew, Jack’s ward who also dreams of marrying a man named Ernest (for the same reason). Hilarity ensues.
This is “A” material. However, Eric Modyman’s director’s notes betray some anxiety about staging a comedy of manners originally written during a time period infamous for its fussiness. I have to admit to sharing a similar anxiety. Too many times, I’ve had to witness stagings and adaptations transform some of the greatest comedies ever written (Austen, Dickens, etc) into a dry, dull snooze fest.
This was not the case at all, the Cabrillo Playhouse knocked this show out of the park. It delivers everything you want from an Oscar Wilde play –something fun, vivacious, and intensely quotable. The first act goes by so fast not because it’s relatively short but because I was immediately drawn in and already feeling a bellyache from laughing so hard.
The flaws are mostly nitpicks –except maybe for the wigs and a few of the set pieces. The wigs were a fright. Act One takes places at Algernon’s home. I thought the set looked more appropriate for a lonely widow rather than a pad for a sophisticated bachelor. The second set of the country house garden worked much better.
Modyman, Chelsea Caracoza, and Hailey Buck were incredible as Algernon, Gwendoline, and Cecily respectively. I’m not surprised Modyman took on double duty because Algernon is always a fantastic role. However, in this production, I think he even out shined Lady Bracknell, who is almost always a scene-stealer.
This was intelligent and exuberant entertainment at its best. Don’t miss out The Importance of Being Earnest runs through June 28.
June 6 – June 28
Sidenote: I recommend giving yourself a little bit of extra time to find parking.
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