Today’s Adventure: Medina County Show Biz Company presents “The Importance of Being Earnest” directed by J.T. Buck. Once again, I am surrounded by a group of ladies who are local theatre fans, and this time they came from a pre-show talk at Miss Molly’s Tea Room. They filled me in on the theatre and they also did something else. When we were instructed to turn off our cell phones, I tried to do that but my cell phone was gone. The woman behind me offered to call it and when she did, lo and behold, one of the ladies was sitting on it. Oscar Wilde would have been pleased.
First produced in 1895, marriage is of paramount importance in the themes of this play, both as a primary force motivating the plot and as a subject for debate. Morality and the constraints it imposes on society are explored as well. However, in the hands of Oscar Wilde, the result is a comedic farce of infamous proportions. We take flight with John and Gwendolen, Algernon and Cecily, Rev. Chasuble and Miss Prism, with Lady Bracknell as the pilot and Merriman and Luke handing out the peanuts.
J.T. Buck (Director) has assembled a fine cast for this presentation. He certainly understands Wilde and goes right after the farcical elements of the play with a fever pitch. Almost vaudevillian, the actors push themselves to find their inner over-the-top muscles and flex them onstage. The pace is mostly sprite with some lags in the scene changes and minor staging choices, but overall plows through the lengthy material with vigor and laughter for days. His style is clear and consistent.
Andrew Deike (John Worthing) plays the protagonist of the play with a full arsenal. He cuts a fine leading man persona and gives John a refined, educated, and well balanced richness. His accent is tight and he handles the part with supreme confidence and a classic gate. He also knows when to let go and have some fun. On occasion, as a result of low volume, some of the dialogue was lost. But overall, this was a strong turn with great comedic elements.
According to the program, Amanda Davis (Gwendolen Fairfax) states she is happy to share the stage with her dashing fiancé, Adam Vigneault (Algernon Moncrieff). Well, you have heard “misery loves company” -- in their case, “excellence loves company. “ Both of these entertaining actors knock it out of the Victorian era. Vigneault is a terrific Algernon. He is funny, wild, and has a great sense of connection with the audience and the material. He consistently is a firestorm of energy throughout. And complimenting that energy is Davis, who is beautiful, charming, and funny. Hers is a great embodiment of the character with deft comedic choices. Both Davis and Vigneault have clear voices with diction that is essential in the world on stage, but especially in the Wilde. (See what I did there?) Bravo to both.
Then we come to the masterpiece theatre. Patrick Michael Dukeman as Lady Bracknell is a scream, with a commanding presence, clear elegant diction, and a character that resembles Maggie Smith on steroids. Dukeman is all over this part, and thankfully so. Very funny! And he owns what I call the comedic fade away jumper. He is dressed to the nines by designer Jasen Smith, who designed and built Bracknell’s costumes. I have to admit with the slender hips and the full bosomed look towering over the cast, I think Bracknell would easily go in the first round of the draft. Tremendous work! Lady Bracknell can steal the play, and in this case, she does.
Cecily Cardew (Katie O’Connor) was a crowd favorite. She brought bubbly dynamics and physical Burnett-esque chops to the role. One caution: diction was lost in some of the over the top moments. O’Connor was a frenetic entity and very enjoyable in her verbal duets with Davis. Diann Gorsuch brings a regal touch to Miss Prism. She is a hoot when being wooed by her suitor. Charles Cover brings a Burl Ives feel to Rev. Canon Chasuble. He is pleasant, enjoyable and lovable throughout the evening.
Kudos to Brett Agular for playing double duty with Merriman (Butler to Mr. Worthing) and Lane (Mr. Moncrieff’s manservant). These two roles could easily be thrown away but due to great character focus—and, in the case of Lane, bringing back the ghost of Tim Conway—were enjoyable and added to the proceedings.
Technical staff did a great job:
Stage Manager: Mary Smeltz
Set and Scenic Design: Kathy Elias (tremendous work with the garden and interior sets)
Lighting Designer: Manuel Aguiar (nice foot light effect)
Sound Design: Larry Mohler (good balance of music and spoken word)
One last note, I hope Wendy the poodle has insurance--careful with the luggage!
Kevin Joseph Kelly
March 20 - March 30
$10 General Admission
Order Tickets Online
Medina County Show Biz Co.
144 North Broadway Street
Medina, OH 44256