The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde. Produced by the Confetti Stage Company. Directed by Neilson R. Jones.
Reviewed by J. Peter Bergman
"Illness is not a thing to be encouraged."
On this amateur theater companyís production of the single most significant play of its era, a classic comic gem actually, there is little good to relate. Acknowledging the enthusiasm of its untrained players and the mind-bending realities portrayed in this piece as they relate to our modern-day world, the only thing I can do is talk about the contributions of three of the participants in this briefly seen production.
Vivian Hwang manages to pull-off a very decent performance as Cicely Cardew, the ward of the playís titular (sort of) figure. She has charm, a good stage presence and a likely side-career in local theater companies. She is pretty, has a lovely speaking voice and a very decent manner on the stage. She has poise. She can sit and stand without appearing awkward, clumsy or uncomfortable in her surroundings. Her lightly accented voice is perfectly acceptable and she can support the few laughs she got in her confrontation scene with her assumed rival for the love of Mr. E. Worthing. I was glad to see her work. It was heartening.
As her rivalís mother, Lady Bracknell, Kate Gulliver was extremely good. Somehow she has managed to surpass, or bypass, the rest of the company and deliver a performance that belongs in a stronger, better production. She got ninety percent of the laughs the author intended her to have. She was strong and definitive when she needed to be those things. She was almost tender for a moment as she recalled her long dead sister and when she spoke alarmingly sweetly, if disarmingly sarcastically, about her husband. She was also appropriately costumed by Pat Holmes who made everyone else a bit dowdy, other than the reverend.
The play has been mis-directed (and by that I do not mean that he has sent us looking elsewhere so that he can effect some smart change on the stage) by Neilson R. Jones. He has clearly never seen an effete comedy, never dealt with blatant stereotypes in an honest manner, never added movement that allows a character to emerge, grow and stand alone in glory. The people in this play are active. No one is stagnant. No one is ever outside of a scene he or she is written into. For Mr. Jones, it seems, people should stand or sit in one place for as long as possible and never move, never react, never become a part of the action of the play.
Wilde did not write words, aphorisms, clever things to say. He wrote humorous characters with intentions. This production never reveals those things, but merely allows untrained actors to be as dull and boring as possible. Itís an achievement of sorts.
The Importance of Being Earnest plays at the Masonic Hall in downtown Albany, NY through next Sunday.