Oscar Wilde’s last (and perhaps finest) play, The Importance of Being Earnest, is now enjoying a ripping good production at the Two River Theater in Red Bank, NJ. Oscar Wilde, notorious bisexual, playwright, poet, novelist, and genius had a short but illustrious career during the last decade of the nineteenth century. Celebrated actor Michael Cumpsty leads a young and sprightly cast through this amazing comedy.
The cast, in alphabetical order is: Randy Danson; Rosa Gilmore; Mahira Kakkar; Chris Kipiniak; Sam Lilja; Bob Mackasek; Federico Rodriguez; Henry Vick; and Liesel Allen Yeager. Wilde has half of his characters between the ages of 18 and 29, while the other half is of indeterminate age, although probably none should be over age 60. Even this production’s Reverend Canon Chasuble is on the younger side, as is Miss Prism (despite her gray wig). In this intimate theater, the actors could be clearly heard. Their acting ensemble clearly meshed into a cohesive whole. Director Michael Cumpsty has a great success with his production of The Importance of Being Earnest.
Of the two male leads, Sam Lilja as Algernon Moncrieff is cute as a cream puff pastry whose hair demands to be tousled while Federico Rodriguez looks poetically and dramatically earnest as John Worthing. Some audience members commented that Mr. Rodriguez would make an altogether appropriate Dr. Frankenstein, due to his intensity and earnestness. Lady Bracknell was realized by Randy Danson. Ms. Danson left nothing to be desired in archness of delivery or comic timing. The rest of the cast performed admirably.
Scenic designer Charlie Corcoran surprised and delighted us at the outset. Algernon’s drawing room flew out to the apron of the stage like a ship docking at a pier. It was a wonderful theatrical effect. We were already seduced before anyone said one word. Jess Goldstein’s costumes were handsome on the women and pretty on both Algernon and John.
The two River Theater is beautiful and new, with admirable sightlines and comfortable seating. It enjoys plentiful parking, and several intriguing restaurants within easy walking distance. A road trip to Red Bank, NJ, is called for and soon, since The Importance of Being Earnest ends its run December 3rd.
For more information about The Importance of Being Earnest, visit www.tworivertheater.org or call 732.345.1400.
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