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

By Katrina “Kat” Reynolds

To open its 30th season, Cincinnati Shakespeare Company is bringing audiences The Importance of Being Earnest by famed playwright Oscar Wilde. Even better: the entire cast of last season’s off-broadway show The Rewards of Being Frank are reprising their roles.

For those who may be unfamiliar to the world of Mr. Wilde, this farcical comedy centers around characters who create fictitious figures in order to avoid social obligations. This, of course, leads to many cases of mistaken identity and other such misunderstandings. Director Brian Isaac Phillips along with assistant Director Lindsey Augusta Mercer have taken the helm of telling the story. It can be difficult to breathe new life into a classic tale, but they have given it that certain something and it thrives. As any good farce should offer, the blocking and movement staged by Mr. Phillips and Mx. Mercer are seamless and hit with a punch exactly when it should.

The Production Team

Scenic Designer Samantha Reno once again knocks it out of the park with a beautiful and functional set. Not to be outdone, Costume Designer Rainy Edwards offers the audience more eye candy than we deserve. Ms. Edwards’ eye for color and detail are to be envied. This reviewer might just have to hire Rainy to dress her in life!

Kelly Mengelkoch and Jeremy Dubin in The Importance of Being Earnest.
Kelly Mengelkoch and Jeremy Dubin in The Importance of Being Earnest. Photo by Mikki Schaffner.

The Actors

This production boasts an incredibly strong cast, so choosing strengths on which to focus is terribly easy!

Out-of-town guest actor, James Evans, is perfectly cast as Algernon “Algy“ Moncrieff. Taking a turn in his fourth production of this show, Jeremy Dubin (as John “Jack” Worthing/Ernest) gives the audience a master class in how to be an actor. Both gentlemen are incredibly dynamic: their instincts are spot-on, their physicality is to be applauded, and their dialects are perfection. Mr. Evans and Mr. Dubin have an undeniable chemistry on stage and one can only hope we will be graced with it again sometime in the future.

A group of men sitting at a table

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James Evans and Jeremy Dubin in The Importance of Being Earnest. Photo by Mikki Schaffner.

Christine Pedi absolutely slays the role of Lady Bracknell. While the role of Lady Bracknell is surprisingly smaller than some might remember, Ms. Pedi’s interpretation is anything but. Playing the Lady’s lovesick daughter, Gwendolyn Fairfax, Kelly Mengelkoch embodies the role utterly from start to finish. This reviewer could not take her eyes off her reactions and chosen body language. Tora Nogami Alexander plays Cecily Cardew, the young ward who becomes Gwendolyn‘s partner in crime. Once again, we as an audience are graced with incredible magnetism between the two.

Bottom Line

I was reminded again after mulling over my reactions to this performance of just how much talent we have here in Cincinnati. It can be easy to become complacent about it, but we are very lucky indeed to have such an incredible arts community. Because of this, it is highly recommended for anyone who has not ever seen a production of The Importance of Being Earnest or has not seen one in quite some time to be sure to attend. There are many things about Mr. Wilde’s writing that are timeless – and laughter is no small part of that.

The Importance of Being Earnest is playing at Cincinnati Shakespeare Company through August 20th. Tickets can be purchased here for this limited run.