Monday, June 13, 2011

The Importance of Being Earnest

Benjamin Curns as Algernon Moncrieff in The Importance of Being Earnest. Photo by Michael Bailey.
We attended the June 12 Pay What You Will performance of Oscar Wilde's farcical satire of Victorian mores: The Importance of Being Earnest. I had read the play and watched a couple of versions of it, and enjoyed all of them, so I was really looking forward to it. Seeing the very talented actors of the American Shakespeare Center perform the play took my enjoyment of it to another level. It was different, but a bit refreshing, to see a more contemporary play on the stage of the Blackfriars Playhouse. I would love to see the trend continue with other plays by the likes of Wilde and Coward.

Benjamin Curns as Algernon Moncrieff and Rene Thornton, Jr. as John Worthing turn in a tremendous tag team performance as friends/rivals/brothers. They always play off each other well, but typically in dramatic roles; here they have the crowd rolling with the rich language of the play and their gestures and expressions.

Equally impressive are the turns by Miriam Donald and ASC newcomer Blythe Coons as Cecily Cardew and Gwendolen Fairfax. Their sit-down for tea scene is a classic as the two spar wonderfully. Both women are ideally cast in their respective roles.

Patrick Midgley and Greg Phelps are subtly funny in their roles as Merriman and Lane. Both have some exceptionally funny moments as they become exasperated by their employers. Allison Glenzer is her typical excellent self as the prim but troubled Miss Prism. Her romantic interactions with John Basiulis' Rev. Chasuble are not to be missed.

Of course, when you see the play you will probably agree with me that James Keegan steals the show as Lady Augusta Bracknell. He does such a tremendous job that you will not even remember that the role is being played by the alpha male of the ASC. Keegan always turns in primo performances and this is one of the more memorable. John Harrell will take over the role in the Fall and I really look forward to seeing his turn as Lady Augusta.

The costumes by Jenny McNee and Erin West are an important part of this play and the selection of garments was outstanding.

I can't wait to see the play again and I encourage all fans of the ASC to check it out at least twice, with Keegan and Harrell as Lady Bracknell.