Volume 94, Issue 5


London gets Moist

Earnest a Wilde production
Restored act enhances classic

Hidden sexuality

NXNE cultivates talent
Publicist highlights advantages

Canadian magazine charts nation's brightest music stars

Responses mixed

Earnest a Wilde production
Restored act enhances classic

Gazette file photo

By Aaron St. John
Gazette Staff

Despite having been written well over a century ago, Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest, is a wonderful farce that remains a remarkably smart, funny and entertaining play.

Currently on stage, as part of the Stratford Festival lineup, the play is a complex comedy of errors, surrounding a series of deceits, mistakes and false identities, all in the name of love.

Set in late 19th century London, England, the story follows the exploits of two friends, Jack and Algernon, as they assume different identities to escape their responsibilities and to pursue their respective objects of affection. Jack is madly in love with Algernon's cousin, Gwendolyn, while Algernon is interested in Jack's ward, Cecily. When Algernon shows up at Jack's estate pretending to be Jack's fictitious brother, Earnest, the result is madcap hijinks.

Like all of Wilde's theatrical works,The Importance of Being Earnest is based on quick, witty dialogue. The play is full of one-liners and retorts that are far more humorous than anything on a modern sitcom. The laughs come nearly non-stop, as the audience has almost no time to catch its breath before the next piece of dialogue, or meaningful glance sends them into spasms of laughter again.

This production is as visually lavish as audiences have come to expect from similar period pieces. Although the sets are simple, they are quite beautiful, especially Algernon's apartment. The costumes are also fantastic; from Jack and Algernon's dandy attire, to the extravagant dresses worn by the female cast members – the costumes fit the players perfectly.

The cast in this production was wonderful. Donald Carrier (Jack) and Graham Abbey (Algernon) are perfectly cast and do a fantastic job of bringing their characters to life. Michelle Giroux turned in a fine performance as the rather shallow and pretentious Gwendolyn, while Claire Jullien admirably tackled the role of the sweet and innocent Cecily.

As strong as the lead performances are, it is the supporting cast that make this production superb. As the bumbling Canon Chasuble, Bernard Hopkins is excellent, as are Domini Blythe as the moralizing Miss Prism and Patricia Collins as the foreboding Lady Brancaster. Yet the best performance of the play comes from Brian Tree as the gruff solicitor, Mr. Gribsby. Although he is only on stage for a few minutes, Tree's reading of the character is enough to steal the show.

Even if you have seen The Importance of Being Earnest before, this performance is absolutely worth checking out. In celebrating the 100th anniversary of Wilde's death, this is the first major production in North America to be performed with an entire act restored. With wonderful performances and excellent pacing, it also contains a number of new moments that are surprising and rewarding.

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