Stagecrafters Goes Wilde with a Twist: THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST

by Ginger Agnew

Theater classics are sometimes staged with changes to shake things up. Now thorough April 13 at The Stagecrafters in Chestnut Hill Oscar Wilde’s THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST is one of those classics.

Set in England’s grand Victorian period, this play tells the story of affluence, boredom, carelessness, deception, elegance, falsification, grace, high-mindedness, indulgence, jet-setting, kin, and love. THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST bursts with the vitality of witticism for which Wilde is well known. His characters revile and respect each other. Theirs is the language of wealth and the idleness only those with great wealth can possibly know. Victorian conventions are celebrated and at the same time spoofed. Criticism of the realm of the upper crust and the trivializing of life and love is abundant in Wilde’s story. The characters are unashamed of their own shallowness.

Carol Enoch, Julia Wise in a scene from THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST. (Photo credit: Sara Stewart)

Carol Enoch, Julia Wise in a scene from THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST. (Photo credit: Sara Stewart)

The production at The Stagecrafters is set during the late 1920s, rather than the Victorian Era. One of the driving forces of the play is the era during which it is set. Wilde didn’t live to see the 1920’s in England or his home country of Ireland, as he died in 1900, and therefore possessed no knowledge of the timeframe between two great wars in a war torn country, when lives of leisure were being impacted and torn apart by circumstances beyond their control.

Acting in the production are many faces familiar to Philadelphia area stages. Jim Broyles as Jack Worthington has been seen in other productions at The Stagecrafters as well as Allens Lane and Forge Theater. Wilde’s lines trip verily off of his tongue. As Algernon Moncrieff Brian Weiser swaggers, saunters and snacks. He too has been previously seen on stage at The Stagecrafters, Old Academy Players and Allens Lane. Carol Enoch as Gwendolen has multiple Chicago theater credits. Enoch produces a poised, pretty, polished, and perplexed persona who seems to run the show. Julia Wise as Cecily Cardew boasts multiple Stagecrafters and other local theater credits. Cecily’s credulity causes her to careen carelessly about while creating her character. Lady Bracknell is a take charge woman who says what she likes and does what she pleases. Ginny Kaufmann embraces these characteristics. Sherry Brown and Mike Mogar, as Miss Prism and Rev Chasuble respectively, round out the ensemble. Playing two characters, and proving that even small roles can be notable, is Matthew Wilkinson as Lane and Merriman.

Those who enjoy biting British banter will revel in the wit and whimsy of THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST.

Directed by Yaga Brady
March 28 – April 13, 2014
Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 PM
Sundays at 2 PM
The Stagecrafters
8130 Germantown Avenue
Philadelphia, PA 19118

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