Wilde Party

Oscar goes to DTC for classic British comedy in The Importance of Being Earnest

Algy and Jack, the "earnest" gents, barely conceal their gayness. They swan around drawing rooms and gardens in smoking jackets and tuxedos, arguing over cucumber sandwiches and tiny muffins. They're gay as May as Jack and Algy, but act straighter in their "Ernest" guises, willing to marry wealthy, intellectually vacant girls to keep up their social status, while secretly buggering each other down at the Albemarle Club (or so one suspects).

No wonder the old Marquis was peeved. Not only was Oscar Wilde "Bunburying" with his son Bosie, he was making sport of it publicly and for laughs. (Idiotic Lady Bracknell, it was said, was based on Bosie's mother.) The opening of Earnest in 1895 was as scandalous as the trial that soon followed. It closed in a matter of weeks. Wilde never wrote another play.

It's satisfying then to rediscover the old chestnut being given first-class treatment under the direction of Stan Wojewodski Jr. at DTC. The handsome lads playing Jack and Algy dance through their roles like young Astaires. As Algy, Michael Newcomer (great name for a young actor) delivers Wilde's delicious lines with a slight slur, like he's sipped Perrier Jouet all afternoon. Moving the play into the 1920s works fine, too, with stylish period costumes designed by Linda Fisher, and a set by John Coyne that rises like pastel illustrations from an oversized pop-up book.

Paul Whitthorne, right, and Michael A. Newcomer play a couple of Ernests to snag the rich ladies they want--and each other--in DTC's The Importance of Being Earnest.
Linda Blase
Paul Whitthorne, right, and Michael A. Newcomer play a couple of Ernests to snag the rich ladies they want--and each other--in DTC's The Importance of Being Earnest.

Brenda Wehle makes Lady Bracknell as lovable a dowager as one of Basil Fawlty's snootier guests. Raphael Parry gives the Reverend Chasuble a funny stutter-step--Wallace Shawn with hiccups. In the dual roles of acerbic city butler Lane and bumbling country servant Merriman, James Crawford, like everything else in this production, gets every detail exactly right.

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