Written by Oscar Wilde
Directed by Michael Shane Eastman & Will Kleist
I’ve seen a few plays now at The Archway Theatre in the last year or so and I have to tell you that their range is pretty epic at this point. Just this year their plays have included the works of Sophocles, Shakespeare and Moliere, which is not too shabby when you think about it.
And now they are trying their hand at the preeminent and most English of wits…Oscar Wilde.
For those of you familiar with Oscar Wilde and those of you who, like me, adore his work, it’s always a bit nerve wracking when the opportunity arises to see one of his plays performed.
Will his exquisite words be given the reverence they deserve? Will the actors be worthy? Or will they slaughter the play and leave you weeping?
Well, I’m very happy, nay positively thrilled as well as thoroughly relieved to say that in this instance, at The Archway Theatre, I left laughing…not crying. Hoorah!
The Importance of Being Earnest is a classic English farce, complete with hilarious misunderstandings, bothersome relatives, drama, heartache and the prerequisite Vicar.
This cast was very enthusiastic in their approach to the story and clearly loved the opportunity to play these silly, irreverent and hilarious characters delivering some of the best one liners ever written.
The accents weren’t perfect of course, except for the actual Englishman that is, but the effort to be authentic was truly noted and the result really wasn’t half bad at all.
This particular interpretation was quite traditional in many ways. Algy was clever and sardonic, Jack was tightly wound and indulgent, and everyone was the portrait of period Englishness.
Patrick Albanesius as Jack and Will Holbrook as Algernon did a marvelous job of convincing us of the deep connection between these two unlikely friends without hitting us over the head with it. This relationship is such an important part of this story, they must feel like brothers, the story really pivots on it, and they absolutely do.
Erika Godwin is wonderful as Gwendolin, flirtatious and seductive and totally in control. And Haigan Day is delightful as the utterly captivating Cecily, just the right amount of girlish wiseness…perfection.
The iconic, fearsome role of Lady Bracknell is played with excellence by Melissa Virgo, a daunting task and big shoes to fill no doubt! We also have the pleasure of Kimberly Kehoe’s delightful Miss Prism and
Louie Mandrapilias’s stumbling and fumbling Chasuble to keep us smiling along with the hilarious James Han and Vinny Brar as Lane and Marriman…the indispensable butlers.
The staging is simple and understated, which I loved. This is a play that can do without elaborate sets and costume…the words and the characters are what is most important I think, although I have to mention one singularly important thing…everyone is in their underwear.
Strange I know, and at first I was a little taken a back by it and confused. But it was period underwear - the men in one pieces and the ladies in all manner of layers of lace - and it actually really added to the whole experience…a kind of allusion to the stuffy, buttoned up and stifling Victorian society. So I loved it in the end, especially as there was no reference to their state of undress at all, which was lovely!
Oscar Wilde once said that the theme of this play is: “That we should treat all trivial things in life very seriously, and all serious things of life with a sincere and studied triviality.”
As a satire of society there’s little that comes close to its sublime mocking of the pursuit of love, especially when you consider Wilde’s own life.
But I think the play itself is its own mirror, what was a manipulation becomes truth, much to the surprise of all concerned…as is best illustrated by the following lines…
JACK: Gwendolen, it is a terrible thing for a man to find out suddenly that all his life he has been speaking nothing but the truth. Can you forgive me?
GWENDOLEN: I can. For I feel that you are sure to change.
Brilliance…and what makes me proudest of my heritage…the English love for the truth of satire.
I highly recommend The Importance of Being Earnest at The Archway Theatre in North Hollywood. Do yourself an almighty favor and partake of some wonderful and uplifting shenanigans!
July 29th through August 28th
Friday and Saturday at 8PM, Sunday at 2PM
10509 Burbank Blvd., North Hollywood, 91601
John ‘Jack’ Worthing - Patrick Albanesius
Algernon Moncrieff - Will Holbrook
Lady Bracknell - Melissa Virgo
Gwendolin Fairfax - Erika Godwin
Cecily Cardew - Haigan Day
Miss Prism - Kimberly Kehoe
Lane - James Han
Chasuble - Louie Mandrapilias
Marriman - Vinny Brar
Producing Artistic Director - Steven Sabel
Stage Manager/Booth Operator - Kristen Maxie
Set/Senic Design - John Eddings
Set Construction - David Handler & Elias McCabe
Properties - Hillary Weintraub
Resident Photographer - Elias McCabe
House Manager - Annie Freeman