The importance of being earnest; @ Mac! Reply

Review by Terry Gaisin

Over a century ago, British playwright Oscar Wilde created what he categorized as a ‘trivial comedy – for serious people’. This ironic play satirized the communal mores of the time and also offered a ‘bunburized’* insight into Wilde himself! The play’s plot deals with two idle middle-class bachelors and their fictitious alter-egos that permit them to escape their social responsibilities. Into the mix is their individual matrimonial intentions, and an almost sibling rivalry between Algernon & Jack… the two buddies.

‘Being Earnest’ has had myriad reincarnations in many different formats, so the only novelty for theatregoers is to observe the directorial focus of a production. McMaster’s Thespian Company has selected Andrea Pohlmann, assisted by Thomas Chiolfi; to supervise the objective and their emphasis is obviously on the two male protagonists.

Given the cast-member’s talent level; it is an oversight. The major characters never rise above two dimensions and are unable to transform completely into their roles. There are neither reflective facial expressions nor postures; timing & phrase emphasis is unexciting and thus becomes a little tedious. Harrison Cruikshank is Algernon – nephew of the domineering Lady Bracknell. A little more indolence and world-weariness would give a credible reading. He does possess a comedic bent that delightfully manifests itself in his mouth-stuffing moments and impolitic talking with one’s mouth-full. His protagonist, Earnest, is portrayed by Grant Winestock whose persona is rather reticent and unfortunately, projects moments of hesitancy. The opposite is true with Jimmy Skembaris’ Lady Bracknell who scene-steals every moment he (she) is on stage. Even his Victorian profile is emphasized with posturing effectively to stage-left.

The female sides of the equations are portrayed by Sarah Granger as Gwendolen – daughter of Lady B. and Jessica Teicher, Jack’s ward – Cecily. They are epitomic of opposites both in their roles and demeanors. The former lacks projection and presents a reserve that borders on introversion; Teicher offers a ‘you go, girl’ attitude that was certainly rare given the play’s period. We liked her!

Astute theatregoers who enjoy the whodunit genre know to pragmatically watch the stereotypical butler. There’s no buttling per se, but Jack’s (Earnest’s) manservant Merriman, played by Chris Vergara, and Algernon’s maid ‘Lane’; depicted by Riane Leonard both contribute full measure of showmanship to their unfortunately brief moments on stage. Vividly mobile miens accentuated by almost ‘hammy’ [sic] eye movements underscore the emotions they feel but verbally can’t express. Distain, disapproval and impatience are all thoroughly projected.

This may not be the most professional repetition of ‘Earnest’; there may be some noticeable anachronisms and costuming leaves some things to be desired, but McMaster’s thespians aren’t professionals… it’s still fun and definitely worth seeing. Our criticism should be taken as constructive, and as Jack states just before curtain- we too appreciate “the vital importance of being earnest!”The play will be at the Robinson Memorial Theatre on-campus until Saturday evening, then the Baltimore House -43 King William Street, —26th-28th.

*Bunbury-ing, v. from the noun, See the play, then you’ll understand!

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