An “Earnest” Effort From M.C. Theater Students

According to the printed program at the recent Montgomery College Theatre summer production of Oscar Wilde’s very wild comedy, The Importance of Being Earnest : “This play is part of our student directorial workshops. All aspects of the production are handled exclusively by students.” That being the case, the students are to be highly commended for a fun-filled night of theater.

Directed by student, Matt Radcliffe, the show was yet another gift to the Montgomery County community, being presented to the public at no charge during its limited four-day run. The scene is described as “somewhere in England in the 1940’s.” In the comfortable, modern, and intimate theater room, the action was played out on a simple but effective drawing room set, with a sofa, chair, and a serving table nicely laid out for tea. Later, the addition of a potted tree and some wicker chairs nicely suggested a garden on the well-lit stage.

In this farcical lampooning of romance among the upper classes, the male romantic leads were amusing performed by Mark Radcliffe, as John Worthing, and Michael Brown, as blasé and witty Algernon Moncrieff. Their respective love interests were played by, Amanda Canfield (as Gwendolyn) and Lindsay Morris (as Cecily). Ellen Perez gave us a feisty Lady Bracknell with elegant airs, crisp articulation, and a dynamic energy that quickly raised the comedic level of the production. Canfield is tall, and brought an amusing sense of movement and body language to her flirtations that sometimes reminded me of Fannie Brice. And speaking of flirtations, some of the onstage groping and leering of the foursome was unnecessarily overdone, and distracted from Wilde’s already very witty script. But of course there are endless mix-ups over names and identities to keep things hilarious throughout.

A droll supporting cast included Kyle Skarbek as manservant, Lane, and Patrick Reddin as Merriman, the Butler. They fortify themselves for master Algernon’s abundant eccentricities by sneaking liberal helpings of liquor from his bar. Another great supporting cast pairing was that of Micah Stinson (as Rev. Chasuble) and Sara Melvin (in an often hilarious performance as the very prim governess, Miss Prism).

But the real star of the show is the great wit of the author, Oscar Wilde. Some of my favorite lines: · “Dr. Chasuble is a very learned man. He’s never written a single book, so you can imagine how much he knows!” · “The truth is rarely pure, and never simple” · “All women become like their mothers. That is the tragedy.” · “If you are not too long, I will wait forever.” · “Parents don’t listen to their children anymore. The old-fashioned respect for the young is all but gone.”

In my opinion, this student production may bring back respect for the young!

(The Courier    8.1.04)

(The Villager    8.5.04)

About The People's Critic

David Dow Bentley III, writes columns about the performing arts which are featured in newspapers from the East Coast to the Gulf Coast. A member of the American Theatre Critics Association (ATCA), The International Theatre Critics Association, and America's oldest theatrical club, The Lambs, he also had long service as the editor of The Lambs' Script magazine. Mr. Bentley may be contacted via e-mail at
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