REVIEW: CSC’s “The Importance of Being Earnest” is Delightful

"Earnest" is a satirical look at the superficiality of society which still resonates today. With some of the most-loved tea scenes in all literature, it is crisp meringues and petit fours of wit and wordplay.

Review by Liz Eichler

Cincinnati Shakespeare Company’s The Importance of Being Earnest is a delightful presentation of one of the world’s funniest plays. Oscar Wilde’s memorable characters are brought to life by shear professionals. Running through August 20, this is a perfect night out for anyone looking for a clever laugh, gorgeous costumes, and high-end entertainment. 

Although Oscar Wilde’s show was first performed in 1895 it is still highly regarded and relatable. Earnest is a satirical look at the superficiality of society which resonates today. You will understand why it is considered a classic, as it serves crisp meringues of wit and petit fours of wordplay.

The Plot of Earnest

You first meet Algernon (James Evans) and Earnest (Jeremy Dubin) in a gorgeous town house, preparing for tea with Algernon’s formidable Aunt, Lady Augusta Bracknell (Christine Pedi), and her daughter Gwendolyn (Kelly Mengelkoch). Algernon is charmingly self-centered yet dressed impeccably in the current style. All of the characters exist to be inspected and approved by society, through trending spectacles or idle chatter. (Same today with social media, right?)

Earnest (who confesses to Algernon that his real name is Jack), is eager to marry Gwendolyn. Aunt Augusta interrogates him, and, although he meets every other criteria, disapproves due to his curious parentage: as a baby he was found at a railway station. Algernon is intrigued to discover Jack/Earnest has a ward, the young Cecily Cardew (Tora Nogami Alexander). Algernon secretly makes plans to travel to the country to meet her. Cecily, however, has been obsessed with stories of Uncle Jack’s wicked brother “Earnest,” an imaginary libertine who allows Jack to live a double life in the city. When Algernon appears as the brother “Earnest” Cecily is smitten.

Three Acts, Two Intermissions

Act Two and Three are set at the beautiful country house, where you also meet Cecily’s governess, Miss Prism (Burgess Byrd) and Reverend Chasuble (Darnell Pierre Benjamin). This Prism is strong–and thirsty. (Watch for her “bend and snap.”) In each setting there is a servant, Lane and Merriman. What a delight to see the inimitable Billy Chace fleshing out those roles. Can’t say too much more without spoiling the plot!

Evans’ Algernon is perfect. A clever narcissistic trust-fund man-child that you love to watch. He captures the British tone, fittingly because he is from the UK. Alexander’s Cecily is fresh and delightful. She and Mengelkoch are well matched, floating like butterflies but stinging like bees, till eventually they call each other “sister.”  Pedi’s Lady Bracknell is a force to be reckoned with, with room to become even more forceful over the run.

The Production Team

This is an eating show. Cucumber sandwiches, bread and butter, cake, muffins. Tea is served multiple times. Kudos to the unique tea sets (Kara Eble Trusty). Great detail is taken with the props, scenery (Samantha Reno), costumes (Rainy Edwards)  and lighting (Watson). In a smorgasbord of beautiful things, Algernon’s country tie is the cherry on the cake. Lady Bracknell’s and Gwendolyn’s clothing are fabulous. The tailoring throughout is impeccable. The scenery, with a nod to the Belle Epoque, is stunning.

Professional Cast and Director

Director Brian Isaac Phillips and Assistant Director Lindsey Augusta Mercer have put together a vibrant and fast-paced production of a must-see classic. Also, since SAG and WGA have been in the news lately, know you are seeing members of Actor’s Equity Association, the Union of Professional Stage Managers and Actors. Phillips is a member of the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society, a national theatrical labor union.

Get Your Tickets to Earnest Today

Get your tickets HERE.  Get to the theatre early for some special tea at the bar before the show or at the two intermissions.

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