By Kathryn Ceceri
Importance of Being Earnest
Oscar Wilde, directed by Derek Campbell
Theatre Company at Hubbard Hall, through Nov. 30
Some may tell you that the reason a play like Oscar Wilde’s
The Importance of Being Earnest continues to reverberate
today is the age-old conflict between truth and artifice,
appearance and illusion. But the fact is, it’s a lot of fun
to watch a dedicated party animal at work.
Wilde’s last play, written just before the legal troubles
that led to his imprisonment for homosexuality, set the standard
for witty dialogue that lasts up to this day. In the production
now at Hubbard Hall, Director Derek Campbell has made Earnest
as up-to-date as an episode of Frasier.
Algernon Moncrief is an 1890s upper-crust London bachelor
whose goal in life is to do as little as he can and have a
great time doing it. Take away the velvet smoking jacket and
the butler and, as played by Jason Dolmetsch, he could be
Niles’ best friend.
you told Gwendolen yet that you have an excessively pretty
ward who is only just 18?” he asks fellow profligate Earnest
Worthing (Brian Reese), who, he’s just been told, is really
named Jack and is using the excuse of visiting his imaginary
brother in London to escape from his country home (which may
or may not be in Shropshire) to spend time with Algie’s beautiful
One doesn’t blurt these things out to people. Cecily and Gwendolen
are perfectly certain to be extremely great friends. I’ll
bet you anything you like that half an hour after they have
met, they will be calling each other sister,” replies Earnest/Jack.
“Women only do that,” Algernon shoots back, “when they have
called each other a lot of other things first.”
Of course, both Cecily (Katie Ann McDermott) and Gwendolen
(Stephanie Moffett) are busy engineering their own romantic
schemes, while Lady Bracknell, Gwendolen’s formidable mother
(Cynthia Weinrich), is intent on making sure any match lives
up to her standards. Wilde makes sure his female characters
are as aggressive, if not more so, than the men, while maintaining
their air of decorum.
The talented Hubbard cast gets right into the Wilde milieu,
delivering their lines with fine comic timing and expression.
Although the play is long (nearly three hours, including two
15-minute intermissions), Campbell keeps the action moving
and the zingers whizzing by. The set by Alley Morse uses the
space between the proscenium and the balcony as a “theater
in the round,” which makes for a few missed looks and asides
to the audience but in general works well. The lush period
costumes by Junio Anthes-Moody do a good job of evoking Victorian
aristocracy, with perhaps just a flounce or two too many on
Lady Bracknell’s gown.
At the show’s second performance there was a little fumbling
with props which hopefully will be smoothed out as the show
goes on. And on a frigid evening the temperature in the theater
itself was a tad cool.
Still, with this production as my introduction to the Theatre
Company at Hubbard Hall, I can truthfully say I was completely