note: entire contents copyright 2009 by Beverly Creasey
For my money, THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST is the funniest play in the English language. I could see it over and over. I know that Oscar Wilde’s arch speech patterns aren’t easy for actors who speak American English. As the theatrical saw famously claims, “Dying is easy. Comedy is hard.” There’s a rhythm to Wilde’s delicious bons mots and a style to punching the humor in a line of dialogue. But without the punch, the naughty quips just lie there.
Most of the actors in the Wellesley Summer Theatre Company production (playing through June 28th) have that rhythm down. Charlotte Peed gives a tour de force performance as the perfect Wildean character. She’s the proper Miss Prism, although she secretly longs to let her hair down. It’s she whose revelations kick the comedy into overdrive. Peed and Dan Bolton as the rector play off each other like sparkling champagne, “drawing their metaphors” as if they were aphrodisiacs.
Eric Hamel, too, is delightful to watch, as the bachelor in over his head where women are concerned--- as is Heather Boas as his divinely ditsy ward. Lisa Foley is a formidable Lady Bracknell. Foley knows how to make Bracknell’s outrageous pronouncements soar. John Davin gives personality to both servants, especially the exasperated country butler. Victoria George, as Gwendolyn is lovely and pert as the little “Bracknell” in the making but she drops her voice at the end of a sentence, alas, sacrificing all the laughs. Also problematic for directors Nora Hussey and Valerie Von Rosenvigne is the other bachelor. He seemed as if something putrid had offended his nostrils for the entire evening and worse, he let Wilde’s marvelous wordplay wither on the vine, as if he were in a melodrama instead of a comedy.
Wilde maintained that “life is too important to be taken seriously.” I would add that this play is too important to be taken seriously. We need all the laughter we can get in these perilous times. And those laughs were sorely missed.