CHATHAM, NJ – There’s no one quite like Oscar Wilde to take a somewhat jaundiced view of the byways of the upper crust in staid London society.
“The Importance of Being Earnest,” an Edwardian farce, was perhaps Wilde’s most popular play and still seems to amuse and entertain today’s audience. Director Tom Frascatore has assembled a talented cast to add nuance to the absurd goings-on in this convoluted tale. He’s referred to the play as a “socially snarky masterpiece.”
John Worthington (Andrew W. Gordon) goes by the name of Earnest when he’s in town, but is known as Jack or John while in the country. Having an imaginary brother allows him an excuse whenever he wants to leave the countryside. A similar ploy is at work with his friend Algernon Moncrieff (Peter Newes), who has created Bunberry, whose illnesses force him to leave his flat on Half Moon Street whenever he desires a change of scene.
Needless to say, complications arise when the young ladies they fall passionately in love with state that they could only love a man named Earnest. Gwendolen Fairfax (Crystal Anne Bennett) is about to become engaged to ‘Earnest’ in London. Meanwhile Cecily (Emily Miller), Jack’s ward, meets Algernon, who has appeared in the country as Jack’s brother, Earnest.
Bringing this all together is the superb Susie Speidel as Lady Bracknell, who will put up with no nonsense until she gets to the bottom of these deceptions. Lisa Barnett is Miss Prism, Cecily’s governess, who somehow misplaced Jack when he was a baby and he was left in a carpet bag at a train station. The Rev. Canon Chasuble (David Romankow) has agreed to christen both men, who are determined to become the ‘real’ Earnest. Adding a comic note is the butler, in London as Merriman and in the country as Lane, carried off with aplomb by Charles Grayson.
The fashionable set is designed by KC Cameron, shifting from Algernon’s flat to the garden and drawing room at the Manor House, Woolton. Kai Movsovich’s costumes reflect the period admirably, while lighting by Chris Szczerbienski and sound by Joe DeVico complete the sense of a light and airy atmosphere.
“The Importance of Being Earnest” creates theatre at its finest and can be seen at The Chatham Playhouse, 23 North Passaic Avenue in Chatham through May 18. For tickets, call 973-635-7363 or visit chathamplayers.org.