While, for the most part, the theater community is busy bringing Chicago audiences “holiday” fare, Remy Bumppo has chosen to bring us “Holiday Cheer” with a masterful production of Oscar Wilde’s “The Importance of Being Earnest”. What a marvelous, flawless production they are presenting under the skillful direction of Shawn Douglas on a set designed by Jaqueline and Richard Penrod upstairs at The Greenhouse Theater Center on Lincoln Avenue. This is a must see production that will have you laughing so hard for two and a half hours, your ribs will hurt, but what a great pain it will be! We go to the theater to be entertained and this production is perfect in every way. The cast of players is very strong and very into the English characters they are playing. In fact, on opening night, there was a slight mishap with a cord that is pulled to bring on the houseman, that came out of the ceiling. With no hesitation at all, the butler appeared and the scene lost no momentum at all. Yes, even the smallest of roles ( William J. Watt, who plays two butlers, one in the city and the other in the country- after all this is a British comedy) hits perfection.
Wilde, who is best known for his one novel “The Picture of Dorian Gray” wrote many plays, each one a slap at the English upper crust. In “Earnest”, our story revolves around two bachelors who are leading double lives. At home, of course they are themselves, but away they take on different personalities. Jack ( a delightful romp for Paul Hurley) when at his home on the country is jack, but when visiting the city, he becomes Earnest. Algernon ( played with just the right English comedy style by Greg Matthew Anderson) leaves the city to be with his dear ill friend, where he can be anyone. There is of course, no friend. These two actors play off each other very well as they discuss thier clever little lies; lies that allow them to escape family gatherings or other obligations. Jack/Earnest is in love with Algernon’s cousin Gwendolen ( a delightful performance by the lovely Linda Gillum), who’s mother, Lady Bracknell ( an award winning performance by David Darlow, yes, a man plays this role making it even more hysterical, and he does so with great flair), does not approve of their potential wedding. Meanwhile, Gwendolen loves the name Earnest and so Jack is faced with finding a way to either kill off his fake brother or change his name)
While Jack has confessed some of his lies to Algernon, Algernon takes it upon himself to head to Jack’s country home to meet Jack’s ward, Cecily( charmingly played by Kelsey Brennan) and pretends to be jack’s brother earnest to gain entry. While Cecily has never met Earnest, hearing of his exploits from jack, she has imagined the man of her dreams and has convinced herself that he is the love of her life. Algernon finds himself to feel likewise, but then Jack returns home and is quickly followed by Lady Bracknell and Gwendolen and then the fun begins. This play deals with mistaken identities, customs and rules of courtship, dowries, and errors in judgement. As the story unravels in a very quick paced three acts, we also meet Miss Prism ( Annabel Armour proves that even a smaller role can steal scenes and the hearts of the audience) who is Cecily’s teacher and chaperon. She has a thing for the local reverend ( deftly handled by Ted Hoerl) and as it turns out, her past also includes Lady Bracknell and a certain incident that took place some 28 years prior.
I will not tell you anymore as I certainly do not want to ruin the hysterical conclusion of this witty comedy that is probably one of the best English comedies ever written. I will tell you, using the words of William Shakespeare, that it ends well! When I say that this production is as perfect as one might expect, I am not kidding- wonderful set and direction and a cast that truly understands the point of Wilde’s writing along with fantastic costumes ( Melissa Torchia), great props ( Nick Heggestad) Dialect coaching ( Kathy Logelin, who produced just the right infections and upper-crust sounding English to make this as perfect a spreviously stated), and lighting ( J.R.Lederle) truly make this production comprable to any Broadway -type production- it is a sheer delight !
“Earnest” will continue at The greenhouse Theater Center located at 2257 N. Lincoln Avenue through January 9th with performances as follows:
Wednesday- Sundays and ticket prices range from $40-$55 with student tickets available for $20 and student “rush” tickets at $15 ( available one hour before curtain, subject to availability, of course). Show Times:
Wednesday,Thursday,Friday and saturday evenings at 7:30 p.m., Saturday afternoons at 1:30 p.m. and Sunday afternoons at 2:30 p.m.
To order your tickets call the box office at 773-404-7336 or visit www.remybumppo.org
discounted parking is available at Children’s memorial Hospital ( 1/2 block north of the theatre) at $6
Saturday, December 11th at 1:30 p.m. at the Newberry Library, a 30 minute conversation with Todd Bauer- after his introduction to the play, a small reception and then off to the theater for a 2:30 performance with a post-show discussion. $60
New Year’s Eve performance $75 including post show champagne and desert with the cast