Tuesday, November 26, 2013

A Brilliant Production! Moonbox Productions Presents "The Importance of Being Earnest" by Oscar Wilde

Poornima Kirby as Cecily, Gabriel Graetz as Rev.Chasuble,
Catherine Lee Christie as Miss Prism, Glen Moore as Algernon Moncriff
and Ed Peed as Lady Bracknell
Oscar Wilde's "The Importance of Being Earnest" is one of those beloved "old chestnuts" of the stage that is often trotted out by theater companies of every stripe and level of professional competence.  I am pleased to report, now that I have stopped laughing and applauding with delight, that the powers that be at Moonbox Productions have roasted this particular chestnut to perfection.  This production is savory and delicious.  It is, in point of fact, the finest production of this play I have ever seen.  It is perfection.

Director Allison Olivia Choat has assembled a cast for this production that would have the playwright Wilde with delight.  There are no weak links in this ensemble.  From the opening silent pantomime of the butler Lane, played with proper sepulchral gravity and self-abnegation by Matthew Zahninger, cleaning up the parlor of its evidence of mild debauchery from the night before, we are transported to an Onion-like cosmos that is a parody of the world of British aristocracy with its amusing and ridiculous peccadilloes.

The versatile set designed by John Paul Devlin sets just the right tone.  The costumes by Susanne Miller are beautifully designed and wrought.  The world created on the stage at the Plaza Theatre at the Boston Center for the Arts transports the audience in time and space so that the action played out before us is believable while being ridiculous - just as Oscar Wilde intended.

Wilde's sardonic humor is just as sharp and biting today as it was when he used it to prod the British aristocracy for their risible ways and fancies.

“The truth is rarely pure and never simple.” 

“All women become like their mothers. That is their tragedy. No man does, and that is his.” 

“I do not approve of anything that tampers with natural ignorance. Ignorance is like a delicate exotic fruit; touch it and the bloom is gone. The whole theory of modern education is radically unsound. Fortunately in England, at any rate, education produces no effect whatsoever.” 

The cast members have inhabited their roles to the degree that I could not image these roles being played as well by anyone else.  The broad British accents are over the top and perfectly appropriate and delectable.

Catherine Lee Christie is just right as Miss Prism, a character written by Wilde as ironically pinched and monochromatic.  She is the apparently straight-laced teacher of young Cecily Cardew, but she has a past and has baggage!

Cat Claus is wonderful as Gwendolen Fairfax, much enamored of Jack Worthing, whom she believes is called Earnest.

Gabriel Graetz is the repressed Rev. Canon Chasuble who would love to expand the spectrum of color in Miss Prism's cheeks.

Poornima Kirby plays young Cecily Cardew with the right blend of faux innocence and mischief as the ward of Jack Worthing.

Glen Moore is effusive as the chameleon, Algernon Montcrieff, who travels to the Manor House in Woolton to woo Cecily, pretending to be Jack's imaginary ne'er-do-well brother, Earnest.

Ray O'Hare is the country butler, Merrimam, who is also wonderfully self-effacing and a blank slate in service to the Manor House.

Ed Peed as Lady Bracknell is simply a force of nature.  Such perfect casting could not be exceeded.  Lady Bracknell moves within a range of emotions from arch to high dudgeon with a swoop of her petticoats, a heave of her ample bosom, or the raising of an eyebrow.  Her disdain of Jack's lack of pedigree is hilarious, using the glorious language of Wilde as both a scalpel and a cudgel.  Peed's performance is worthy of any award that the theater community of Boston wishes to bestow.

Andrew Winson as Jack Worthing uses all 80 inches of his stature to fill the stage with a presence that is  both earnest and mesmerizing.  His interactions with Moncrieff, with Lady Bracknell, and with Gwendolen allow him to show his mastery of Wilde's wit and wordsmithing to great effect.

Moonbox Productions presents The Importance of Being Earnest at the BCA Plaza Theatre November 22 - December 14.  Cast members (l to r) Glen Moore(Algernon Moncrieff), Poornima Kirby (Cecily Cardew), Cat Claus (Hon. Gwendolen Fairfax) and Andrew Winson (John Worthing, J.P.) lead a stellar Moonbox cast in this beloved comedy by Oscar Wilde.

This is a play - and a superb production of that play - that can be enjoyed by children at one level, and by adults at an even deeper level.  On the day that I attended a performance, audience members of all ages - pre-teens through senior citizens - were enthralled and entertained.

Take a moment to put down your cucumber sandwich and click on the link below to order your tickets to see "The Importance of Being Earnest."

Moonbox Productions Website

"The Importance of Being Earnest" will run through December 14.

As part of its mission, Moonbox Productions supports a variety of non-profits.  The group that benefits from this production is High Spirit Community Farm in the Berkshires.  The farm provides "Community Life & Meaningful  Work for People with Disabilities."

I encourage you to check out their website, as well.

High Spirit Community Farm



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