TheatreWorks performed in 'Earnest'
Leonard Diamond's "Earnest or What's in a Name" has a lot going for it. Mostly, Oscar Wilde's play "The Importance of Being Earnest."
Diamond's musical version is based on Wilde's classic. However, Diamond's opening scene, not Wilde's, can be confusing if audience members don't recognize that Oscar wrote "The Importance of Being Earnest," and that Gilbert and Sullivan wrote "Patience," which is the piece that David Anctil as Wilde is playing on the piano when Sir Arthur Sullivan arrives.
This scene focuses on Sullivan, portrayed by Frank Arcaro, approaching Oscar Wilde as a potential collaborator after the split that occurred between Gilbert and Sullivan. Diamond's "what if" scenario is a good idea. But it will require reading the playbill for background for those who aren't familiar with Wilde or Gilbert and Sullivan.
Once the play moves into what Wilde actually wrote, the play works well. Diamond is credited with writing the book, music and lyrics for "Earnest or What's in a Name." Most of the book and lyrics are verbatim Wilde. That leaves the short opening and closing scenes as Diamond's. The music is also Diamond's and though it is often reminiscent of the Gilbert and Sullivan style, it is not nearly as distinct nor as memorable.
What works like a charm for this production is Laura Gilbert's direction. She allows the Wilde piece to come through with clarity and humor. Some of the actors also shine. Certainly, Carey Van Hollen as Gwedolen, Beth Bonnabeau as Miss Prism, and Fred Rueck as Reverend Chasuble have the strong voices and deliver outstanding performances. Ian Maitland plays Jack Worthing, Charles Roth takes on the role of Algernon, and Becca Myhill plays Cecily. Jack Harding and John Bolster play butlers.
Glenn R. Couture is a fine director/actor at TheatreWorks. However, his performance as Lady Bracknell in drag is somewhat disappointing.
The character does not come across as comically domineering and hysterically ironic as Wilde's Lady Bracknell. Couture's set design on the other hand received thunderous applause, especially when the set rotated to reveal a dramatically different setting.
Some of Susan Becker Aziz's costumes were spot on, while Richard Pettibone's and Scott Wyshnski's lighting design was excellent. Beth Bonnabeau was the musical director.
Overall, the production is entertaining.