The Importance of Being Earnest by Marin Shakespeare Company’s

In Marin Shakespeare on July 13, 2009 at 4:18 pm

IMG_0230Deep in the second act of the Marin Shakespeare Company’s entertaining production of “The Importance of Being Earnest,” I realized how much the sitcom “Frasier” owes to Oscar Wilde. Jack Worthing, this play’s proper, endearingly puffed-up gentleman, is echoed in Frasier; Jack’s more foppish, droll brother, Algernon Moncrieff, is Niles. And their swift, sardonic repartee in Wilde’s masterpiece ripples through the ages, surfacing with conscious influence or not in the most surprising places.

There is not a trace of anachronism in Marin’s Shakespeare Company’s production to prod such comparisons. Robert Currier has a deep understanding of the text, revealing how contemporary Wilde can seem in this endlessly funny comedy about courtship, hidden identities and social posturing among deliciously superficial people.

The production is rich with actors who do justice to the play’s wit, but none more than Darren Bridgett as Algernon. Thoroughly cynical until he falls in love, Algernon is the character closest to Wilde himself, and Mr. Bridgett delivers some of the playwright’s most quoted lines (“Truth is rarely pure and never simple”) with the blitheness that makes them seem fresh.

William Elsman displays wonderful ease and comic timing as Jack, who is in love with Algernon’s cousin, Gwendolen.  She is the least colorful of the major characters, but Cat Thompson gives her an edge that suggests how much she is an incipient version of her rigid, imperious mother, Lady Bracknell. George Maguire is a different Lady Bracknell, all pompous and proper.  One wonders why Maguire, he made Lady Bracknell very funny.  I am sure this is not the first time a male has played this part.  But one wonders.      

Alexandra Matthew makes Cecily, Jack’s ward and the woman Algernon loves, sweetly innocent without seeming stupid. And Joan Mankin enlivens the role of Miss Prism, the sometimes mystified governess who, so significantly for the play, once left a baby in a handbag at Victoria Station.  Miss Prism’s relationship with Reverend Chasuble, played very effectively by Jack Powell, extracted every laugh possible.

The production, directed by Robert Currier, is a delight.   The set, by Mark Robinson, changes from a London Townhouse to an English Country manor to a garden at the country manor.  The costumes, by Patricia Polen, are rich and period appropriate. Ellen Brooks lights the stage very effectively.   

The delight in this play is hearing Wilde delivered so well, with such evident joy in the depth of his silliness,  

Marin Shakespeare Company’s opening production for the season is a fantastic romp, one in which you as well as the actors, are going to have a wonderful time.


What: The Importance of Being Earnest

When:  runs through August 16

Where: at the Forest Meadows Amphitheatre, 1475 Grand Ave., Dominican University of California, San Rafael 

Cost: Tickets: $15-$30;

Information:  call the box office at 415/499-4488. Info:

  1. What about the great actor, Lucas McClure, who played BOTH Lane & Merriman???

    • Greeta,
      Thanks for your question.
      Lucas did a very nice job. I was aware he played both parts.
      take care

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