Reviewed by Kathleen Kirby
It was leap day, 2/29/20, the last time we set foot inside a theatre to view a live production. So Friday’s venture to see Flint Community Players’ production of Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest was highly anticipated. Funny and wholly satisfying, it signaled a return to the familiar even if some aspects retained remnants of 2020’s isolation
A comedy, this play was perfect for this moment in time. We all need reason to laugh and to remember when, and Earnest gave us that opportunity. Much was different – only an audience of 30 or so were seated with some arranged in three up front rows while others were at various tables for two. It definitely was comfortable even with everyone wearing a mask throughout the evening.
The cast were wearing windowed masks. They were also wearing microphones which helped the sometimes muffled speech that can happen in a mask.
Director Shelby Coleman has assembled a quite competent cast for this society piece set in late 19th century England. Two good friends, John Worthing, also known in some circles as Earnest, (Jordan Climie) and Algernon Moncrieff (Dakotah J. Myers) come together in Algernon’s home where Worthing reveals his intention to propose to his friend’s cousin, Gwendolen Fairfax (Taylor Boes). Moncrieff has his reservations and suspects his friend of ulterior motives. After some give and take, and the exposure of Worthing’s supposed wastrel brother Earnest, Algie agrees to help his friend propose.
Gwendolen arrives escorted by her mother, Lady Bracknell (Rolecia Looney). Boes prances and snaps her fan at all the right moments generating more than a few chuckles Friday. Looney carries her role as a society matron of pompous stature well. Each entrance brings a warning that the real decision maker may be in the house.
The proposal happens but there is the odd determining factor as she insists that her attraction is largely because his name is Earnest. The plot twists.
As he learns more about Worthing’s family, Algernon is attracted to Cecily Cardew (Lindsey Briggs), John’s ward who lives in the country. Pretending to be John’s “brother” Earnest, he abandons his bubbly Algernon persona and ultimately proposes to Cecily who eagerly accepts him. She too is enamored of fellows named Earnest!
With everyone pretending to be someone else, the comedy increases in Acts 2 and 3 while the plot takes even more curious twists and turns. Who is John Worthing really? Is there a brother Earnest? How might Cecily’s prim governess, Miss Prism (Joy Bishop) figure into the mystery?
Three other cast members do figure comically beginning with Lane (Zachery Wood) the manservant in Algernon’s house who sets the comic if slightly frustrated tone right from the start. The Butler (Richard Neff) is the height of patience and elderly competence as his orders change frequently. Finally, the Rev. Canon Chasuble (Philip Kautz) humbly strives to please everyone and winds up finding a friend.
Aside from some mask muffled speeches, most are clear enough to carry the dialogue nicely. As Director Coleman describes the Rick Doll designed sets, they are very like a children’s pop-up book. The cutout style of hand painted flower bushes in Act 2 is especially fun. They are a further reminder that this show is meant to be unrealistic, fun and imaginative.
Kudos to FCP! It was a great way to reintroduce us, the quarantined masses, back into a evening of fun, conversation and of course, theatre!
The Importance of Being Earnest continues May 15, 21, 22 at 7:30 pm and May 16 & 23 at 2:30 pm. For more information contact the box office at 810-441-9302 or online at www.flintcommunityplayers.com