EclecticPond Theatre Company is maturing into a theatre force to be reckoned with as it revises and adapts classic plays for a modern audience. Last month’s fascinating Julius Caesar, set in a modern-day boardroom, was a study in power and honor. The latest offering, The Importance of Being Earnest, is a delightfully funny adaptation of Oscar Wilde’s best-known play.
First performed in 1895, Wilde’s work mocked the obsession with trivial matters in Victorian society — the subtitle of the play is A Trivial Comedy for Serious People. Victorian mores and fixations are the fodder for the play (these are the folks that called piano legs “limbs” and hid them behind curtains, after all) and Wilde delighted in tweaking noses at the fashionably foolish.
The play is set in 1990s London, with John “Jack” Worthing (adopting the name “Earnest”) visiting friend Algernon Moncrieff. Algy’s cousin Gwendolen Fairfax arrives, and Earnest proposes to his lady-love —and discovers that Gwen is in love with the name Earnest. Gwen’s mother Lady Bracknell applies the “sniff test” to Earnest’s pedigree, discovering that he was found in a handbag (gasp!) in the Victoria Station cloakroom (gasp and swoon!) and was adopted. Finding all this highly unsuitable, Lady Bracknell whisks her daughter away, though Gwendolen promises to meet Earnest at his country home. Algy gets to the country home first, and calling himself Earnest (Jack’s “brother”), meets Jack’s ward, Cecily, who he woos. A merry mix-up ensues when Gwendolen arrives to meet Earnest, to find Cecily gushing about another Earnest.
Of course, the double lives fall apart, and Lady Bracknell solves the mystery of Jack/Earnest’s identity and the ending is happy. The cast for this production of The Importance of Being Earnest includes some fabulous EclecticPond veterans, such as Jaddy Ciucci as Cecily Cardew, David Molloy as the Rev. Canon Chasuble, and Carey Shea as Jack Worthing. Lisa K. Anderson as Gwendolen is a delightful ditz, and Julie Mauro plays the arch and perfectly Victorian Lady Bracknell for laughs. Pat Mullen plays the double-dealing muffin obsessed Algy, and Joan Rapkin’s governess Miss Prism is fun to watch as a wanna-be writer of an unpublished three volume romance and forgetful baby watcher. Kate Duffy Sim plays two roles — Lane and Merriman the servers — as wild contrasts. Direction by Paige Scott keeps it all humming along at a gleeful pace without letting the actors get bogged down in all the clever repartee that Wilde is known for.
The Importance of Being Earnest shows April 26, 27 May 3 and 4 at 7:30; at 5:30 p.m. on April 28 at the Irvington Lodge, 5515 E. Washington St. Tickets are $14 online (http://beingearnest.bpt.me), or at the door $18. Their next production is Much Ado About Nothing, June 7-22.
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