Oscar Wilde holds an “irresistible fascination” for me so off I went to Moonbox Productions’ THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST (playing @ BCA through Dec. 14th). I’m still giggling. Wilde’s incomparable comedy of manners is exquisitely staged by Allison Olivia Choat, with a jewel of a (convertible) Victorian set by John Paul Devlin and a Lady Bracknell of infinite pleasure.
Ed Peed is deliciously imperious as the Grande Dame who assumes she can control her daughter---and everyone else’s. Of course she can’t. The headstrong (like mother, like daughter) Gwendolen will marry whomever she pleases (but only if he’s Earnest). Peed is perfection, from his/her withering glances to his/her preposterous pronouncements.
The two bachelors in the story are no match for the wily women they think they’ve chosen (ha!). Watching their self confidence crumble is part of the joy of Moonbox’s EARNEST. Everything from “polite” society to religious pomposity is skewered in Wilde’s [hand]bag of tricks. Choat adds a few of her own, including a nifty G&S refrain and a clever [re]turn of phrase for an impudent Cecily. If you’re a Wilde fan, you’ll rejoice that Moonbox masters that arch, stylized tone to a (I can not resist) “tea.”
Andrew Winson is a game Jack with just a touch of nobility. (This is the second time I’ve seen him in the role and he’s wonderful.) His best friend, Algernon, cheekily played by Glen Moore, is a definite bounder and most certainly a bad influence on his chum. Poormina Kirby makes the Cecily role just cagey enough that she’s not the flibbertigibbet one usually encounters. Cat Claus gives Gwendolen a bit of a steely streak, justifying Jack’s fear that “all women become their mothers.”
Gabriel Graetz is a charming Rev. Chasuble, he of embarrassed pauses and florid metaphors. Alas, Catherine Lee Christie’s “shortsighted” Miss Prism was under the weather with laryngitis the night I saw the show…obviously, as Lady Bracknell counsels, the victim of shoddy medical advice. The two butlers, Matthew Zanzinger and Ray O’Hare, have a grand time being in charge, deciding where rugs should reside and plants should recline. We’re even treated to some jaunty music composed by Dan Rodriguez.
If you love the play, don’t miss Moonbox’s gem of a production. If you’ve (gasp) never seen EARNEST, now is the time.