“The Importance of Being Earnest” is considered the greatest work of Oscar Wilde. The full title is often represented with Wilde’s intent: “The Importance of Being Earnest, A Trivial Comedy for Serious People”. But the audience doesn’t have to be the least bit serious to enjoy the witty British dialogue poking fun at Victorian Society. Turning on the firm pronouncements of the indomitable and imposing Lady Bracknell, two sets of young lovers find each other irresistible yet possibly unavailable due to the imposition of Lady Bracknells rigid ideas about proper conduct in society.
The comedy and the wit make the play perfectly enjoyable under all circumstances; however an excellent cast shapes an outstanding performance. An excellent cast does appear in the presentation mounted by Poteet Theatre at St. Luke’s Church in Oklahoma City. This is definitely an occasion to sit back and revel in amusement. The production can be viewed by serious people through absorption rather than reflections on the silly society of Victorian England.
Director, Jamie Brewster handles the show brilliantly. She also succumbs to the temptation to cross-gender cast the role of Lady Bracknell. The role is extremely popular among male actors probably because it is such a fun, plum role. When Lady Bracknell is played by a man, it is important to be absolutely certain that the character is not played ‘in drag’ just ‘in character as a woman’ and truthfully. Don Taylor handles the role magnificently, and one is ultimately able to forget his obviously masculine attributes in his skillfully feminine mannerisms. Because the role is pivotal to the actions of the other characters, it must not overshadow them. Jack is played by Brett Young and Algernon is played by David Mays. The one is a dandy and a reprobate, the other is an irresponsible cad. Both of these types are acceptable according to Lady Bracknell’s view of British society, provided they exhibit excellent manners and proper properties. Mays and Young are perfect Victorian gentlemen in their roles!
They both fall in love with young ladies who are looking for the ideal mate for a Victorian maid of high society. Most women would consider earnestness a desirable trait, however Gwendolyn, Lady Bracknell’s daughter, and Cecily, Jack’s young ward desire the name rather than the trait. Jack and Algernon desperately try to become the Earnest of their young ladies dreams: Gwendolyn believes Jack is Earnest and Cecily believes Algernon is Jack’s brother Earnest. The confusion is amusing but the way in which Holly McNatt as Gwen and Emily Brown as Cecily express their demands is delightfully ridiculous and realistically, femininely logical to a Victorian.
Miss Prism, companion/governess to young Cecily is perfectly captured by Chris Harris and the Vicar is exceptionally represented by Randall Hunter. As a gentleman’s gentleman – James Tyra as Lane is impeccable. The young houseman of the country residence Jack has provided for his ward, Cecily is very well done by Josh White. The exciting performances by the entire cast are enhanced by Brewster’s timing in direction, as well as set design, costumes and all technical aspects.
“The Importance of Being Earnest” can be seen at Poteet Theatre Thursday through Saturday at 8:00 pm and Sundays at 3:00pm until October 9, 2011. For information contact poteettheatre.com or call 405-609-1023. The Poteet Theatre is located at St. Luke’s United Methodist Church at 222 NW 15th Street in Oklahoma City.