By Bernie Krumm, Staff Writer
The Drama Department’s third production this season is its rendition of Oscar Wilde’s comedy “The Importance of Being Earnest.” As an ardent fan of both this play and the satire genre, I was apprehensive as to whether or not this production would do the play justice. Despite a few flaws, it nails the comic value intended thanks to stellar performances from its leads.
The main plot revolves around Jack Worthing, an English socialite who, in an attempt to conceal his pleasure-seeking lifestyle, has invented a “wicked brother” to whom he attributes his bad behavior. When he proposes to Gwendolyn, a member of the British aristocracy, his two worlds begin to collide. Along for the ride is Algernon, a friend of Jack’s who has invented a sick friend in order to escape social obligations. The other major plot is Algernon’s attempt to court Cecily, a young girl who has been put under Jack’s care. The play satirizes the aristocracy of the Victorian era.
Hofstra’s production design captures the time period perfectly. The costume design is particularly impressive. The set itself, although simple, adds to the shows historical accuracy. The actors interact frequently with the props and use them to add to the show’s humor, making for a very natural production. This particular production is staged in the round, with seats on all sides. Intimacy is the key word, which is ironic seeing as how audiences are supposed to view a farce objectively. The blocking, however, is well orchestrated and any and all awkward moments are minor.
This production’s success is owed entirely to the chemistry between John Ball and James Crichton, who play Jack and Algernon respectively. Their comic timing is flawless and the back and forth between their characters is the main source of humor in this production. Individually, they are equally impressive. Crichton succeeds in capturing Algernon’s charm and likability while drawing most of the laughs. The outlandish nature of the character does not throw him, as he is able to deliver the colorful lines naturally. Ball is absolutely brilliant as Worthing, who finds himself constantly at odds with high society. He plays the character as a neurotic whose thin layer of composure dissipates frequently and with hilarious results. Unfortunately, the production seems to slump in their absence. The performances of the supporting cast members, with a few exceptions, are relatively bland. The exceptions are Ian Poake and Amelia Kreski. Poake is awkwardly funny as the bumbling Reverend and makes the most of his short time on stage. Kreski plays Lady Bracknell, Gwendolyn’s mother and the stereotypical aristocrat, with the appropriate amount of self-confidence and haughtiness. One of the shows only faults is that sometimes the English accents of some of the cast members sound more like impressions or caricatures. But all of this is forgiven, as the show is exactly what it intends to be: hilarious.