The Importance of Being Earnest
BY LEE MELVILLE
Presented by Pacific Theatre Ensemble; Brunswick Court, 20 W. Colorado St., Pasadena; (213) 660-9064. Opened Dec. 5; plays Thurs.-Sun., 8; ends Dec. 14.
It may be very important for John Worthing to be Ernest in town and Jack in the country but of more importance the Pacific Theatre Ensemble has a company of actors quite capable of extolling the wily wisdom of this wonderful Oscar Wilde “trivial comedy for serious people.” Performed often, but seldom well, The Importance of Being Earnest is a play one never tires of seeing if done with proper style and flair. Under the direction of Victor Pappas, these PTE actors are to the Wilde manner born.
Joseph Olivieri as Worthing and John DeMita as his friend Algernon Moncrieff deftly bounce the banter off each other while Libby Boone and Julia Fletcher as their feminine counterparts Gwendolen Fairfax and Cecily Cardew, respectively, more than equal their skill. (To watch Boone react with a pause, a look or an arched eyebrow is a particular delight.) But, as is often the case, Lady Bracknell steals the scenes in which she appears and this Gretchen Oehler does with utmost conviction. Catherine Telford gives an especially fine rendition of Miss Prism. Others, too young for their roles, are Frank Collison as Rev. Chasuble, Randolph K. Wendelin as Moncrieffs London butler and Bud Leslie as Worthing’s manservant in Woolton.
Technical aspects show what can be done with a limited budget and an unlimited imagination. The costumes provided by Lori Martin and Sarah Zinsser more than convey the period and elegance of late 19th century fashion while Hunt Burdick has done wonders with a few lighting instruments. There is just enough of a suggestion in the uncredited set to give the production a finished look. If more companies were as creative, the high costs of producing waiver would lessen.
Meanwhile, we look forward to what this inventive and highly professional Pacific Theatre Ensemble will offer next year. With the extremely short run of this play and its production of Hot I Baltimore last month, why not begin 1987 with a reprise of these two shows in repertory?