Oscar Wilde's masterfully written The Importance of Being Earnest has been described as a perfectly written play. I can't argue with that. Fun, quick and quick-witted, this clever comedy of mistaken identities is a delight on the page, and even more so when brought to life on the stage. And the cast now onstage at the Citadel Theatre does the words proud.
In this classic, two society bachelors, Jack and Algernon, both secretly pretend to be a man called Earnest. We're off to a fine start already, you see. After meeting two women who know them only as their alter egos, a weekend in the country is a guarantee of mayhem and hilarity as the pair try to conceal their truths and keep up the charade.
Director Jackie Maxwell uses the round stage of the Maclab Theatre to fine effect in this 1950s incarnation of Wilde's original Edwardian-set writings. There's a lightness to the furniture and fashion, and especially the flirtiness and 'twirliness' of the objects of our various Earnest's desires: Cecily Cardew (a light, bright Helen Belay) and Gwendolen Fairfax --(a feisty and very funny Amelia Sargisson).
Speaking of furniture, Nadien Chu chews it up as the iconic Lady Bracknell, a delicious role that Chu embraces in a commanding performance. Lady Bracknell is the arbiter of marital matters for her daughter Gwendolen as well as her nephew Algernon, a judge of what's appropriate, what's worthy. "Do you smoke?" she asks Jack. Surprisingly, she approves the affirmative answer. Chu is terrific at letting everyone know who's boss.
I liked the banter and contrast between Algernon (a breezy performance by Alexander Ariate) and the more tightly-wound Jack/John (just right in the hands of Jeff Lillico). One just wants to have fun, the other has some serious angst about--most everything. It's a fun pair to watch; like a grinning cat batting a jittery mouse about.
I enjoyed the comings and goings of Doug Mertz as the butler; could almost feel his eyes rolling at what the masters of the house get up to. Edmonton stalwart players Davina Stewart as Miss Prism and Julien Arnold as the Reverend round out the talented cast.
If you haven't seen an Oscar Wilde work, grab a cup of tea and one of Algernon's muffins and make this your first one. Satisfaction guaranteed.
The Importance of Being Earnest plays in the Maclab Theatre from September 23 – October 15, 2023. Tickets are at citadeltheatre.com or by calling the Box Office at 780.425.1820.