Volume 92, Issue 92
Tuesday, March 23, 1999
|ARTS AND ENTERTAINMENT
Deception runs Wilde in Grand production
Photo by Elisabeth Feryn
By Nancy Allen
Shakespeare asked the question, "What's in a name?" Oscar Wilde's most famous play The Importance of Being Earnest, currently running at The Grand Theatre, would suggest if the name is Ernest then the answer is true love and happiness. Throw in a little deception and you've got a humourous tale of two conspiring gentlemen who "Bunbury" their way into the hearts and lives of two lovely ladies.
Set in a time when smoking was considered an occupation and ignorance was an acceptable characteristic, this production captures the wit, humour and politics, sexual or otherwise, of the 19th century.
The plot begins with Algernon Moncrieff (Patrick Galligan) playfully labelling Jack Worthing (John Ullyatt) a "Bunburyist." Algernon has created for himself a fictional invalid by the name of Mr. Bunbury, which allows him to visit the country whenever he so chooses. In similar fashion and intent, Worthing creates a brother by the name of Ernest in town. However, he takes it one step further by adopting the persona of Ernest while he is in the area.
The plan seems flawless until Worthing confesses his love to Gwendolen (Lisa Waines), whose ideal has always been to love someone with the name Ernest. In the meantime, Algernon learns of Cecily (Deborah Drakeford), Worthing's beautiful niece and adopts a devious persona in order to win her love.
Galligan and Ullyatt exude such chemistry and play off each other's enthusiasm. The animation and energy which saturates their discourse is truly impressive. Galligan assures he personifies a confident and cunning Montcrieff, while Ullyatt maintains an agitated Worthing. It is their double life conspiracy and the comic series of misunderstandings which fuel the brilliant plot.
Enter Lady Bracknell, Gwendolen's pompous mother (played by Fiona Reid) who brings Worthing's plan of marrying her daughter to a halt. Without fail, Reid maintains Lady Bracknell's crisp character and steals the show with her elaborate mannerisms and reactions.
Under the direction of Michael Shamata, Waines and Drakeford do a wonderful job of fluidly changing gears between friends and foes. Drakeford does a fine job of creating Cicely's character with a careful blend of coyness and innocence.
The set and costumes, designed by John Pennoyer, are particularly ornate and truly reflective of the Victorian ages, setting the tone for the intricate plot.
The complexity of the surprising and comical climax is flawlessly executed and leads the audience in a bout of laughter. In essence, the candour and enthusiasm of each character ignites the plot and sustains it from start to finish.
In the spirit of being earnest, this production is zealous, sincere and a must see performance, no matter what your name.
The Importance of Being Earnest is playing at The Grand Theatre until April 3.
Copyright © The Gazette 1999