Reviewed by Helen S. Bas
The Kearsley Park Players opened their final production of the season Thursday, and it proved to be a magnificent homage to Oscar Wilde, a nineteenth century Irish playwright who lived and worked in England.
The Importance of Being Earnest was written late in Wilde’s short life, at the height of his career. Indeed, he became one of London’s most popular playwrights in the 1890s. It is a tragedy that he died at age 46 in 1900, only five years after Earnest premiered. Opening as it did in the tail end of the Victorian Era, the play is full of righteous indignation, snobby references to society, and loads of comic relief.
Earnest (or Ernest, depending on where you read it) Worthing (played by James Cech) and his friend-when-it-suits-him Algernon Moncrief (Justin Wetenhall) each have imaginary companions of a sort that allow them to disappear from their lives for a time. For Worthing it’s an oddball brother; for Moncrief it’s an ailing friend.
Add a couple of love interests, an uppity aunt and a few other characters and you have a recipe for satiric comedy that bounces from person to person. Cech and Wetenhall deserve kudos for their portrayal of these self-centered young Brits, who lust after Gwendolyn (Ella J. Thorp) and Cecily (Kristen Carter), respectively.
Gwendolyn’s stuffy mother, Lady Bracknell (Shelli McCormick), who also happens to be Algernon’s stuffy aunt, thinks Earnest is not good enough for her daughter, and Earnest, who happens to be Cecily’s guardian, thinks Algernon is not good enough for her.
The plot thickens mightily what with all the deception, game-playing and the fact that the young women each think the name “Earnest” is the only proper one for a suitor.
This good ensemble cast is rounded out by a couple of servants, Lane (Victor Galea) and Merriman (Ian Thomas), Cecily’s teacher Miss Prism (Laura Friesen) and Rev. Dr. Chasuble (Brian Haggard). The actors play well off one another, each highlighting the others. Secrets and deceptions are revealed, and the laughs build faster as the play comes to a satisfying end.
It’s hard to pick out any one actor in such a good ensemble. The cast made good use of gestures, posture, facial expression and generous eye rolling along with well-delivered lines. Director Kay Kelly, who also did costumes and set design, deserves a big pat on the back for this one, as do stage manager Crystal Dillard, assistant to the director Kendra Carlock, technical director Dave Johnson, and costumers Elaine Kay and Laura Williams.
Algernon munches his way through the whole play, and we understand that Elaine Kay is the baker of the delicious-looking edible props.
Overall, this production of Earnest is up to par with every other excellent production by the Kearsley Park Players. Keep it up, guys, and we look forward to next season.
The Importance of Being Earnest continues through the weekend in the Opera House at Crossroads Village in Genesee Township. Performances are tonight and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m. Tickets are $5 and can be purchased before each performance at the Village entrance. For more information during weekday business hours, call 810-736-7100 ext. 6 or visit www.kearsleyparkplayers.com