The Importance of Seeing Earnest
Words by Moriah Joy. Images by J. Stubbs Photography.
Whenever discussing Oscar Wilde and his productions there are a few things that immediately come to mind: the costumes, the over-the-top characters, and witty remarks. The Little Theatre of Virginia Beach’s production of The Importance of Being Earnest encapsulates all of those things that make this production a crowd favorite. The show begins with the introduction of Algernon Moncrrieff, a bachelor who has a negative view of marriage, who is visited by his friend “Earnest” Worthing has come into town to propose to Algernon’s cousin, Gwendolyn Fairfax. When Earnest reveals that his true name is Jack, Algernon reveals that he plays a similar game in society where he pretends to visit a sick friend in the country, “Bunbury”, to get out of his familial duties. Jack's proposal goes astray as he attempts to reveal his true name as Jack and Gwendolyn states that she abhors the name and will only marry him if his name is Earnest. The matter becomes further complicated when Algernon discovers that Jack has a ward by the name of Cecily Cardew and Algernon goes to the country pretending to be Jack’s brother Earnest and proposes to Cecily.
In this fast paced comedy of mistaken identities and high society ideals, the cast portrays the story with enthusiasm and unique characterizations. Jason Kypros, who plays Algernon Moncrieff, was extremely engaging throughout the entire performance as his character experiences a change of heart. His partner in crime, Jack Worthing, played by Thomas Arthur Hall, created a larger than life character with vivid facial expressions and over the top hand gestures. Their chemistry on stage truly felt like they had been friends for years and their journey together was very entertaining. Leigh Strenger portrayed Gwendolyn Fairfax as a gentle witty woman with a sweet voice that is until she demands what she wants and then a fierceness awakens within her. The most interesting casting choice was Cliff Hoffman as Lady Bracknell, as the role is not typically played by a man. However, his portrayal of Lady Bracknell with staunch coldness and “high moral tone” created a comedic foil to the other characters who lean away from societal traditions. Miss Prism and Reverend Casuble, portrayed by Kay Lynn Perry and Brian Cebrian, brought big laughs to the stage with their fun game of cat and mouse. Taylor Durham who played Cecily Cardew brings a tremendous amount of youthful energy to the stage and sweet amount of naivety that clashes with the headstrong force of Gwendolyn. Last but certainly not least, the butlers Lane and Merriman, portrayed by John Robert Moss and Celestino J. Damiano, did not have much time on stage but produced laughs every time.
While the cast creates uproarious laughter with wonderful comedic timing, there were a few actors who struggled with accents, making it difficult to understand some of the words. However, this did not take away from my overall enjoyment of the show.
As usual, Little Theatre of Virginia Beach’s technical elements create a cohesive world of the play beautifully stylized. Donna Lawheed’s scenic design immerses the audience in high society England and transitions effortlessly into the beautiful countryside with what feels like a full garden on stage. The props created by Melissa Manigila were enticing as food played a huge part of the show and I wanted nothing more than to be enjoying the snacks on stage with the actors. The costumes truly felt individualistic to each character allowing the fashions to tell their stories without the use of words. The beauty of the costumes and overall actor appearance was a team effort by Lisa Bobotas (Costume designer), Delores Belvin (Costume Assistant), Robert Shirley (Lady Bracknell’s costumes), Marilyn Abernathy (Wigs & Hair), and David Prescott (Hat Design). The sound design for the show felt reminiscent of Bridgerton as Serenity Jones used string quartet and cello covers of contemporary songs which added to the sense of familiarity of the piece.
Overall the direction by James Bryan and assisted by Amy Harbin created a show that delights and leaves the audience feeling good. The Importance of Being Earnest run continues on Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm and Sundays at 2:30pm until February 6th. Tickets here!