Review by Terry Gaisin
How fitting that Oscar Wilde’s final satirical farce would be selected by Patrick Young as his final directorial effort with UTM’s Theatre Erindale. Our Arts Review has critiqued about 70 continual Erindale presentations since 2003 and have had the opportunity to witness a dozen productions under Young’s thespian management. All of them were noteworthy and thought provoking. No doubt, this is because the man has the innate capacity to discover the essence and motivation behind each playwright’s rationale. He is a consummate examiner; researcher, and thus his results always succeed. Photo by Jim Smagata; UTM
The 1895 play ‘IMPORTANCE of BEING EARNEST’ plot deals with two young fops who have created alter-egos to pretext vacating social responsibilities. One of the two refers to such subterfuge as ‘Bunbury-ing’ which has become eponymous for such behavior. The play paraphrases the Scottish poem (Marmion) expounding negative consequences resulting from ‘What a tangled web we weave, etc.’. Young allows his cast members the opportunity to underscore their dialogues with personal traits thereby enhancing individual portrayals.
The two friends, Algernon & John (aka Ernest) are played by John Wamsley & Thinh Nguyen respectively. Walmsley brings a world-weary indolence to his character; while Nguyen is by far the more emotional of the two. Algernon has a domineering aunt and a winsome cousin who is the matrimonial object of his friend John (or oftimes Jack). The cousin is playfully represented by Emily Thorne who utilizes every possible facial expression, including over-wattage smiles to emphasize emotion. She also has the 2nd best costumes! The other love interest is Nguyen’s ward ‘Cecily’ and Katie McDonald brings an ingenuousness to her role that appears natural and innate. All the above display an inordinate chemistry in their interactions; both as friends and briefly adversaries. Just another of Young’s directorial phenomena.
There are two compelling support roles. The arrogant status-calculating aunt is played by Shaquille Pottinger towers over the other cast members. Not only physically, but in haughty condescension. He (She) can almost demolish those around Lady Bracknell [Aunt Augusta] with a laser-like stare that could kill if given full voltage. Milady has an incredible set of costuming and a faultless wig certainly well- suited to carry the ‘fascinator’ millinery that wardrobe provided. Pottinger can also be very expressive with a fancy walking stick which somehow becomes a non-verbal articulation. The other major support roll is two: – first act’s Caleb Harwood is Algernon’s manservant; and after-interval; John’s butler. It is as such that Harwood shows how to convey tons of non-verbiage just with how one opens and closes doors!
The highly pivotal rolls of Governess/teacher and local minister are supplied by Sarah Hime and Spencer Bennett. While their on-stage time is limited, both give full measure of support and role contribution to the totality of the presentation.
The sets and properties provide the environment expected for both the time and social standard of the fin de siècle era. Such attention to detail is a hallmark of Erindale presentations even considering the constraints of a limited budget. THE IMPORTANCE of BEING EARNEST will be at Erindale until Mar. 26th.