In Play Reviews

One of the most brilliant, and certainly funniest, plays in the English language has invaded the stage at Artists Repertory Theatre!

The Importance of Being Earnest, written by Oscar Wilde and directed by Michael Mendelson, opened Saturday, May 20, with a few variations. Nary a male on the stage. All eight actors are female.

The Importance of Being Earnest at Artists Repertory Theatre features an all female cast. Photo by David Straub.

Few things are more hilarious than actors playing members of the opposite sex. This timeless social satire is no exception.

For those unfamiliar, this is a play about the marriage game, a subject about which much has been written. Nobody understood the gamesmanship better than Oscar Wilde–an outsider if ever there was one, despite being married himself.

The play is two hours of rapier wit, small prevarications, heady but exacting language, and cucumber sandwiches, of rich and eligible young men and seemingly silly, beautiful young women.

Jack (Jamie M. Rea) is in love with Gwendolyn (Kailey Rhodes) and wants to propose. He enlists Algernon’s help in the matter. Meanwhile, Algernon (Ayanna Berkshire) professes curiosity about Jack’s eligible ward Cecily (Crystal Ann Munoz). Gwendolyn’s ghastly mother, Lady Bracknell (Linda Alper) disapproves of nearly everything, but particularly young men–unless they are suitably rich.

As the play moves from London drawing room to country estate, and through a maze of dazzling period costumes (Bobby Brewer-Wallin), we move closer to the actual business of marriage proposals. Still, nobody seems to have much good to say about the institution. The butler Lane (Sarah Lucht) tells Algernon that he was married once. “That was in consequence of a misunderstanding between myself and a young woman.” Quips Algernon, on the marriage proposal, “It is very romantic to be in love. But there is nothing romantic about a definite proposal. Why, one may be accepted…Then the excitement is all over. The very essence of romance is uncertainty….” Says Lady Bracknell, having visited a recently widowed friend, “I never saw a woman so altered; she looks quite twenty years younger.”

So wise, Mr. Wilde. So wise.

Earnest is as fresh today, its satire as appropriately and hilariously damning, as it was more than 100 years ago. It opened to great acclaim in London, 1895. But its run was cut short by Oscar Wilde’s personal disgrace. The play was deemed inappropriate, and Wilde’s time as London’s darling abruptly cut short. His play lives on, and Artists Rep’s stunning production breathes new life into it–if that, indeed, were needed. Every nuanced line in this play is a complete delight. Every performer is just right, and each seizes the opportunity to steal the show at least once!

Appropriate for all ages, the play runs through June 11 at Artists Repertory Theatre.




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  • Margie Hurle says:

    Wish I was there to enjoy it! Thanks for such a great review.

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