'The Importance of Being Earnest' review

Kyle Winfield | Contributing Writer

Originally published February 2018

“The Importance of Being Earnest,” written by Oscar Wilde, has been considered a theatrical classic since it’s introduction to audiences on Valentine’s Day, 1895. Written as a satire on Victorian Era social customs like marriage, social obligations, it was intended to be a farcical comedy. So, how did the ODU Theatre group’s production of this classic turn out?

This production is directed by Kareem Fahmy and stars Kyree Parker as Jack Worthing and Jeffrey Haddock as Algernon Moncrieff, along with Josh Jones, Blair Heinz, Dari Caldwell, Morgan Wilson, Larry Lewis, Jerome Trinidad, Peter Scheible, Crystal Krause and Liv O’Neal.

Now, when one goes into a comedic play, one expects it to be funny, as there is nothing worse, nothing more absolutely, gut wrenchingly miserable to sit through, than bad comedy. However, you’ll not find that problem with this production of “The Importance of Being Earnest,” as the whole house erupted with laughter several times throughout the performance. And not just the use of wordplay for humor, but also physical humor, which is best demonstrated by Parker’s performance.

When it comes to the acting, all of those onstage give a wonderful performance, albeit with some some room for improvement. Overall, the cast did a tremendous job in both keeping their respective accents as consistent as possible (a testament to the work put in by J. Keith Flippen, the dialect coach), and projecting clearly and loudly for the audience, for the most part.

When it comes to standout performers, one cannot state just how much both Jones (Lady Bracknell) and Haddock (Moncrieff) steal the show. Jones, with his dedication to pushing the envelope far enough to be believable as a pompous aristocratic Englishwoman, while also eliciting many laughs from the audience. Haddock too should be praised for his extremely charismatic performance as a sort of underhanded but quirky, dandy-type.

The set design was also quite interesting in that it was very modular. Consisting of an off-white raised wooden platform that would have different sets of matching stairs, placed on either side of the platform, or the center depending on the scene. Accompanying the off-white base was a set of three panels, meant to look like stained glass which acted as both windows and walls and added loads of color to the sets, enhancing the aesthetic experience.

What really helps this kind of set is the use of furniture. Scene one uses more 1950’s to 1960’s furnishings and light fixtures, while scene two is an outdoor affair, with plants and outdoor furniture and the last scene, set in a drawing-room which has more dated, older furniture flanked by four massive bookshelves. Each set definitely differentiates itself from the last, which is a massive plus.

However, nothing is ever perfect. There were a few issues during this performance, which would most likely sort themselves out in subsequent performances. Most notably were some glaring line flubs by a few of the main actors, several instances of muddled lines and Trinidad’s performance of Lane did seem a touch bit stilted, which by no means is to say that it was terrible.

However, these all could be attributed to opening night nerves, which is an issue that will rectify itself during the run of the show. Overall, Kareem Fahmy’s production of “The Importance of Being Earnest” is a wholly enjoyable time, and should be experienced by any and all who are interested in the performing arts, want to have a laugh and a good time and want to support their local college-based artists.

“The Importance of Being Earnest” is showing at Goode Theatre 16, 17, and 21, 22, 23, 24 at 7:30 p.m., and Feb 25 at 2:00 p.m.