What better way to spend a lovely late spring evening than to be charmed by the words of Oscar Wilde. The Importance of Being Earnest beguiles us at Laurel Mill Playhouse. This farcical satire of society is a joy to all the senses. Just Wilde’s words alone make the everyday wordsmith smile with glee. Even Wilde’s title is a play on words. The play repeatedly mocks Victorian traditions and social customs, marriage and the pursuit of love in particular. The beauty of this play is that it still holds true and loses none of its fun and frivolity, even though it was first performed back in 1895.
This production is aptly directed by Rocky Nunzio who did a fine job casting an amazing group of actors who clearly have a pulse on the motivations of their characters, as well as the use of the space on the stage itself. Casting just the right actors is first and foremost the most important job that a director does. Mr. Nunzio certainly did an outstanding job in this regard.
The set was designed by Rocky Nunzio as well. It was very simple, but effective since Wilde’s characters are the focus of the play. There were some lovely touches of hand painted flowers on a blue painted background which gave the impression of Victorian wallpaper. The set was also adorned with French doors, simple furnishings and a bookcase that converted into a flower valance for the garden scenes.
Lighting Designers Michael Hartsfield and Rocky Nunzio did a nice job creating the change from the indoor lighting of Algernon Moncrieff’s flat on Half Moon Street to outdoor lighting in the garden of the manor house in Woolton. Kudos also go out to Sound Designers Spencer Nelson and Billy Georg for selecting just the right music for the background scene changes.
Costume Designer Carol Mead Carmell did an exemplary job with picking and creating the perfect costumes for each character in the time period of the play. Of all the technical aspects of the show, this was the most outstanding.
The show got off to a wonderfully funny start with Jim Berard who plays both butlers Lane and Merriman. As Lane he is hilarious with his constant delivery of the line “Yes sir.” His Merriman was an enjoyable sight gag as the audience laughs at the resemblance of the two butlers which is played beautifully by Berard for laughs. He goes from no glasses as Lane to glasses as Merriman with a slight change of voice. This was casting at its very best.
Nick Cherone (John “Jack” Worthing) and Kyle Kelley (Algernon “Algy” Moncrieff) played off of each other with ease and wit. Mr. Kelley’s accent and expressions were spot on as well as his impeccable comic timing. Mr. Cherone plays the perfect friend and foil to Kelly’s droll and flighty Algernon.
Rosalie Daelemans plays the quintessential formidable Lady Bracknell. She was a joy to watch as she churned out her Victorian morays. In a word, her performance was “perfection.”
Tracy Davidson, who plays Miss Prism, the governess to the young and love Cecily Cardew (Julie Rogers), does a delightful job as the stanch and proper Miss Prism. She is the perfect contrast to the wonderfully starry eyed and optimistically sweet Cecily. Ms. Rogers really shines in this role. Not only is she a lovely actress and virtually perfect for the role, but her facial expressions are priceless.
Lady Bracknell’s daughter, Gwendolen Fairfax, is played by Jenn Robinson. Ms. Robinson’s Gwendolen is in perfect contrast to the young Cecily. She is stayed and as formidable as her mother Lady Bracknell, but with a hint of softness especially when it comes to her love John Worthing. Ms. Robinson really shined in this role both in voice and physicality.
Last, but most certainly not least, is Tim Evans as Reverend Chasuble. Mr. Evans’ droll, but funny clergyman gets an abundance of laughs as he expounds on the details of his job and his courtliness toward Miss Prism.
I couldn’t be more EARNEST when I tell you to go see Laurel Mill Playhouse’s WILDE-LY funny play. It will charm and delight you.
Running Time: Two hours and 10 minutes, with one intermission.