Theater Review: The Importance of SEEING Earnest At RTP
“The truth is rarely pure and never simple” (Algernon, The Importance of Being Earnest)
The obvious line “Oscar would be Wilde” about Henley Street Theatre, Richmond Shakespeare, and Richmond Triangle Player’s production of The Importance of Being Earnest, has already been taken by another reviewer.
However, I will piggy back on that sentiment to concur that Mr. Wilde would indeed have been mad about the production. As was the sold out crowd on the production’s opening night at the Richmond Triangle Players Theatre.
The Importance of Being Earnest, a farcical comedy about social status which pokes great fun at the institution of marriage and Victorian ways, is considered one of Oscar Wilde’s most enduring plays. Alas, it would also be his downfall. The Marquess of Queensberry, father of Wilde’s lover at the time, intended to disrupt the play. Though Wilde was tipped off, and the disruption averted, the feud would end up in court where Wilde was eventually sentenced to prison for homosexuality, which was prohibited in Victorian England.
Jack Worthing (Thomas L. Cunningham) and Algernon Moncrief (Ian Stearns) are wealthy society gentlemen. Jack, known to Algernon as Ernest, leads a respectable life in the country as ward to the beautiful young Cecily (Aly Wepplo). Algernon lives a decadent and luxurious life in London. He avoids displeasure at all costs. When an unappealing social engagement comes up, Algernon visits the imaginary invalid “Bunbury” in the country. Jack, whom Algernon discovers is “bunburying,” has created a wayward young brother Ernest, a pretext for visiting London on pleasure.
When Jack wants to marry Algernon’s cousin Gwedolen Fairfax (Audra Honaker), he must first convince Gwendolen’s mother, Lady Bracknell (Robert Throckmorton) of his respectable status in society. And when Algernon goes to the country as Ernest on the pretext of visiting Jack to meet the lovely Cecily, romance ensues. The false personae, and the meddling of Lady Bracknell, lead to confusion for the characters, and hilarity for the audience. In the “best tradition of the well made play” the story ends with loose ends tied up, and everyone living happily ever after. And once again, the adage that the truth is stranger than fiction holds true.
The entire cast was terrific, including Stephen W. Ryan as the butler, Merriman, whose facial expressions and one-liners were spot on. The stars of the show—Thomas Cunningham (Jack), Audra Honaker (Gwendolen), Ian Stearns (Algernon), and Aly Wepplo (Cecily)—shined through out. And no review would be complete without acknowledging the superlative performance by Robert Throckmorton as Lady Bracknell. It seems appropriate that on the weekend of Virginia Pride, the leading lady was played by a guy in drag.
Along with the stellar cast, gorgeous set, and the wonderful Wilde script, this collaborative production of The Importance of Being Earnest opened to an attentive and enthusiastic crowd, and ended in a standing ovation.
The Importance of Being Earnest runs through October 19, 2013 at the Richmond Triangle Players Theater. I suggest you forego lackluster television –i.e. America’s Got Talent—and check out our very own Richmond’s talent.
lie Harthill Clayton is an out and proud bisexual with a passion for reading, writing . . . and NOT arithmetic. She’s the proud mom of two young adult men and is slowly adjusting to having them both away at college. Her work has appeared in the Christian Science Monitor, the Internet Review of Books, Curve Magazine, Lambda Literary and more. She is the newest member of the Richmond Theatre Critics Circle. A paralegal by day, Julie spends her free time knitting, writing, and reading anything she can get her hands on. She lives in Richmond with her partner, local artist David Turner, and their mischievous and loving hunting dog, Max.
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