Oscar Wilde’s 1895 comedy The Importance of Being Earnest, now playing at the Arvada Center, is a delicious piece of writing — a verbal playground you wouldn’t want to add a single word to or subtract a single word from. Nonetheless, that doesn’t mean it can’t be compromised by a less-than-perfect production. Luckily, this new mounting, directed by Rod A. Lansberry, is nothing of the sort. It’s fantastic and it all takes place on the beautifully designed set by Brian Mallgrave.
Algernon Moncrieff, played by Jake Walker, was a pleasure to watch. He is no stranger to the theatre community and his talent continues to prove why he works. He made this role his own and was eminently believable throughout the evening. His sense of comic timing was beyond reproach, and his descent from confirmed bachelor who loathed the concept of marriage to a man desperately needing to be married was executed convincingly.
Scott Bellot, who takes on the role of Jack Worthington, does a fine job. His consistent choices and silent moments are gold. Walker and Bellot have a believable relationship full of constant banter, sibling rivalry and good times. The two on stage together are tremendous.
Lady Bracknell, portrayed by Bev Newcomb-Madden, beautifully conveyed the rigid judgmentalism of the aristocracy. Madden’s timing, facial expressions and physical carriage accomplished exactly what Wilde would have liked. One of the highlights of the evening was her demanding interview with Worthing in order to determine his suitability as a suitor for Gwendolen.
Kate Berry Mann as Gwendolen Fairfax was wonderful. Her moments playing against Bellot were clever and a joy to watch. Although this was a production filled with many high points and memorable moments, the scenes between Mann and Caitlin Wise as Cecily Cardew stole the show. These two strikingly beautiful young ladies had all of us on the edges of our seats as we waited for the penny to drop – And we certainly were not disappointed.
The Importance of Being Earnest is clever and so embedded in our theatrical culture that when done correctly can make a three-act and roughly two and half hour play fly by effortlessly. If you’ve never seen Wilde’s masterpiece, this is a great place to start: and if you have seen Wilde’s masterpiece, this is a great place to see it again.
Arvada Center for the Arts and Humanities
6901 Wadsworth Blvd.