Empress of Blandings Productions’ rendition of Oscar Wilde’s classic comedy, The Importance of Being Earnest, soars at the 2018 Fringe.
Man of high society John Worthing must do everything in his power to rein in his unscrupulous and scheming friend Algernon Moncrieff while also hiding his improbably problematic double life as the country-dwelling Earnest.
Director Celia Taylor’s take on The Importance of Being Earnest features the Victorian charm of Wilde’s original in a subtly modern light, and it works. The production doesn’t sacrifice the play’s fast-paced banter to dwell on adaptational liberties and modern allusions; rather, it’s made only small, sly changes which don’t distract the audience. John, for example, does not need to address his library for important historical records, consulting his smartphone instead.
The talented cast and simple staging make The Importance of Being Earnest a delight to watch. The chemistry between the silver-tongued Algernon (Rory Turner) and the ever-exhausted John (Damon Pitcher) make them the highlights of the show, while their castmates have no trouble holding their own. The always-unimpressed Lane (Émanuel Dubbeldam) fits Wilde’s sardonic script well, and the Earnest-obsessed Cecily (Carol Chu) and Gwendolen (Maggie Salopek) play perfectly against John and Algernon.
While the cast fumbled with some lines and props, the actors played them off with ease and decorum. The small, swelteringly hot venue may explain these mistakes — The Importance of Being Earnest is a fast, busy show, and the second act taxes the stage, if not the audience.
The Importance of Being Earnest’s seamless staging allows the audience to enjoy the hard work the cast and crew clearly devoted to the production. The play is a lively ribbing of Victorian well-to-dos, which fans of Wilde and newcomers alike would be hard-pressed not to enjoy.