Wonderfully Wilde with The Importance of Being Earnest
In the opening moments of Oscar Wilde’s classic The Importance of Being Earnest, the charming playboy Algernon Moncrieff offers his unconventional approach to music — and indeed, to life in general.
“I don’t play accurately,” he proudly proclaims. “Anyone can play accurately — but I play with wonderful expression.”
And while I rather admire Algy’s appreciation for aesthetic freedom, I’m happy to report that Nashville Repertory Theatre’s sensational The Importance of Being Earnest hits all the high notes with both precision and immeasurable artistry.
Written in 1895, Wilde’s timeless comedy of manners remains remarkably relevant. Full of crackling wit and withering satire, the story centers on a pair of bachelors who create fictional personas in order to shrug social obligations and woo their respective love interests.
Yes, this brilliant play still has plenty to say about the absurdities of social convention and moral posturing. But above all, The Importance of Being Earnest is a comedy. And in the capable hands of Producing Artistic Director René D. Copeland and her marvelous cast, Wilde’s script fairly sings.
Comedic talent abounds
Atlanta-based actor Jacob York makes a notable Nashville debut, offering the very picture of a Victorian dandy as the cheeky Algernon. Eric D. Pasto-Crosby also succeeds as Jack Worthing, balancing the character’s requisite propriety with a nice touch of petulance. Together, the two make easy work of Wilde’s rapid-fire dialogue.
The same could be said of Emily Landham and Marin Miller, who show off considerable comedic talents as the gentlemen’s respective romantic interests, Gwendolyn and Cecily. Their enthusiastic verbal sparring provides one of the evening’s many highlights.
Denice Hicks uses her wildly expressive face to great effect as the oh-so-proper Miss Prism, while Brian Webb Russell infuses the blustering Rev. Chasuble with unexpected charm. And Bobby Wyckoff is absolutely priceless in the dual roles of servants Lane and Merriman. Wyckoff’s wordless, but highly indignant tea service in Act II is a bit of comic genius.
But it’s Rona Carter who scores the biggest laughs as the high-handed Lady Bracknell. Wielding her parasol like a weapon, Carter delivers crushing social pronouncements with acerbic perfection. “To lose one parent, Mr. Worthing, may be regarded as a misfortune,” she says of Jack’s questionable lineage. “To lose both looks like carelessness.”
As usual, Nashville Rep’s design team has created a dazzling world for these iconic characters to inhabit. Gary C. Hoff’s revolving set is incredibly detailed — from the intricate crown molding and gilded columns to elaborate fountains and faux stained glass. And what I wouldn’t give to play dress-up with Trish Clark. Her Victorian costume designs are simply exquisite, right down to the last button, bauble and bow.
One of modern theater’s most enduring works, The Importance of Being Earnest continues at Nashville Rep through Nov. 2. Don’t miss it!
To view more of Ms. Stumpfl's review please click here to visit The Tennessean. Are you convinced that you need to purchase tickets to Nashville Rep's production of The Importance of Being Earnest? Please visit nashvillerep.org for tickets, information, and much more!