Review: ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’ at Annapolis Shakespeare Company

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Annapolis Shakespeare Company’s production of The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde is a delightful period piece (late 19th Century) and a sentimental comedy that revolves around marriage, misbehavior, and mistaken identities. Director Sally Boyett (Founding Artistic Director) offers up a cocktail of pristine acting, an elegant set, and splendid costumes that is certain to intoxicate the audience with joy and laughter.

 James Carpenter, Teresa Spencer, Renata Plecha, Brian MacDonald, and Joshua McKerrow. Photo by Joshua McKerrow.
James Carpenter, Teresa Spencer, Renata Plecha, and Brian MacDonald. Photo by Joshua McKerrow.

John Worthing, aka Earnest in the city and Jack in the country (Brian Keith MacDonald), is a young, responsible magistrate who happens to be the bachelor about town. Tall and proper in stature, MacDonald plays this character seriously. From his perplexed facial expression to the wringing of his hands behind his back, his character is always in thinking mode. He is smartly dressed in a gray suit paired by an off-white brocade vest, illustra

Gwendolen (Lady Bracknell’s daughter) is the epitome of London society who is both confident and sophisticated. When she accompanies her mother, she behaves properly by folding her hands in her lap and keeping her opinions to herself. Yet, upon meeting Cecily Cardew, John Worthing’s ward, Gwen initially has a churlish tongue and a jealous girlie attitude. Even though she is educated, she places an emphasis on style over sincerity. Plecha demonstrated how flirty Gwen is with John by casting out innuendos as she bats her eyes and moves toward him with a slight suggestive movement. Plecha is stylish from head to toe in her Victorian ensemble. Her hat is decorated with pink flowers while her long skirt and coat-like blouse is a rich peach accented with lace at the collar and cuffs. Her gloves and parasol are lacy as well.

Algernon Moncrieff (James Carpenter) is deceptively glib as he leads a life of leisure and boredom. He shameless flirts with Gwen for love is the excitement he craves. As this character, Carpenter has this continuous sheepish smile that is both cunning and cute. His eyes are as mischievous as his red and black checked suit. His behavior is reflective of a well-behaved court-jester as he maintains that he must visit his invalid friend Bunbury, who is imaginary, when he needs an excuse to leave the city. Carpenter lends comic-relief to the show, especially when paired with Cecily Cardew (Teresa Spencer).

Cecily is a country debutante that has been secluded in Jack Worthing’s (Earnest) estate while being tutored by Miss Prism, her governess. Spencer is vivacious as Cecily with her exaggerated expressions and showy gestures which align with this character. Silly in nature, Cecily wants to meet a “wicked man” and meets her match with Algernon. Carpenter and Spencer character’s chemistry is not full of steamy “s” words, but they are an adorable couple nonetheless. Their playfulness is appealing as well as Cecily’s costume. Donning a yellow jumper dress with shoulder straps and a fitting bodice, and a white puffy sleeved blouse, Cecily exudes the essence of spring. Her brimmed hat is decorated with a broad striped ribbon.

Lady Bracknell (Laura Giannarelli) is the perfect representative of Victorian society. She carries a strong belief that social and class barriers are to be enforced. As Algernon’s aunt, Lady Bracknell is interested in finding a suitable wife for him. A strongly, opinionated matriarch, who comes across as a bully, Giannarelli portrays Lady Bracknell with poise and dignity. She speaks proper and with conviction as she masterfully pronounces her aristocratic tapped “r’s,” causing people to listen. She is properly dressed in diamond-patterned dress in a lovely burnt orange. Her hat has layers of lace underneath the flipped-up brim and is decorated with bright peach plumes.

Miss Prism (Sue Struve), Cecily’s governess is the embodiment of Victorian moral righteousness as she quotes scripture but then reveals a secret life of passion. She entertains a flirtation with the local Reverend Canon Chasuble (Will Cooke) and they too are an adorable couple. Older and more mature, their relationship is subtle as Struve and Cooke’s body language is comprised of respectful gestures, such as slightly bowing to one another. Additionally, their dialogue is rich with metaphors and eloquent words. Dressed in a collarless coat and a black suit, Cooke’s costume compliments Struve’s sage green and cream colored striped dress, perfectly.

Lane (Timothy Sayles) and Merriman (Larry Levinson), Algernon and Earnest’s servants respectfully, are confidents to their employers but still maintain their neutrality as servants. They hold their stoic facial expressions during crazy and chaotic times. Lane is another character that leads a double life as he indulges in the benefits of his job (eating tasty sandwiches and drinking champagne) when his boss is not present. He keeps Algernon’s lies while Merriman maintains the comings and goings as he announces people and happenings. It appears that both manservants seem to appreciate the follies of their masters. Both gentlemen wear dark 3-piece suites.

All the actors performed with a spot-on English accent with coaching from Nancy Krebs. Sally Boyett contributes her many talents with the costumes and sound design with sound programmer/intern Dante Fields. Resident Lighting Designer, Adam Mendelson and Assistant Lighting Designer/Intern Alexander Roberts light the stage in soft tones of pinks and blues, giving the show a springtime feel.

Teresa Spencer, Brian MacDonald, Laura Giannarelli, and Renata Plecha. Photo by Joshua McKerrow.
Teresa Spencer, Brian MacDonald, Laura Giannarelli, and Renata Plecha. Photo by Joshua McKerrow.

Scenic Designer Jack Golden, along with Scenic Artist Amy Kellett, create an elegant set that begins as a living room with chairs and a sofa that are framed in a deep, rich, carved wood. They are upholstered in a muted orange. The china is white that is trimmed in gold with a flower motif. There is also a silver tea set, a crystal-laden appetizer tower, and a crystal wine carafe. The set is transformed into a country garden with potted roses, hydrangeas, and small topiaries. The garden table and chairs carry a rose motif and cow watering cans are perch on the garden half walls. The last set change transforms the stage into a country living room with the use of the garden walls as bookshelves and switching the settee sofa and the pair of chairs to opposite sides of the stage. The floor is patterned tile in dark green and terra-cotta.

Teresa Spencer, Larry Levinson, Timothy Sayles, and Renata Plecha. Photo by Joshua McKerrow.
Teresa Spencer, Larry Levinson, Timothy Sayles, and Renata Plecha. Photo by Joshua McKerrow.

The Importance of Being Earnest is a satirical comedy that mocks Victorian traditions and social customs. In fact, earnestness was considered to be the prime social value, but the characters are far from it, as they are both sneaky and secretive. In earnest, this play is full of fun, frolic, and fancy. An enchanting story, the cast plays their roles with lively enthusiasm. It is apparent the actors love what they do and Sally Boyett delivers a tremendous production.

Annapolis Shakespeare Company’s production of The Importance of Being Earnest should be seen by everyone!

Running Time: 2 hours and 20 minutes, with two-10 minute intermissions

The Importance of Being Earnest plays through April 10, 2016 at Annapolis Shakespeare Company’s Studio 111 – 111 Chinquapin Round Road, in Annapolis MD. For tickets, call the box office at (410) 415-3513, or purchase them online.

RATING: FIVE-STARS-82x1538.gif

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Danielle Angeline
Danielle Angeline was bit by the theater bug when she took a set design class in college. Her instructor reminded her of George Michael (Got to Have Faith). She then decided to major in technical theater and design at Towson State University. After graduating, this led her to work at Universal Studios Florida and the Carnival Cruise Lines as a stage manager, group coordinator and arcade manager. Returning home to Maryland, her career transitioned from CAD work to a technical writer/trainer for the past 15 years. During that time, Danielle volunteered as an Information Specialist with the Smithsonian. Museum assignments included Natural History, Portrait Gallery, and the Castle. She is now pursuing her theatre/arts career again as a writer and dedicating herself to her greatest passions: theatre, writing, family & friends, painting, tasty & innovative cuisine and her cats: Cheyanne and Sierra.