How important is a name? Well in The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde a name is all that matters, it just happens that everyone wants the same name! Austin’s City Theatre is currently producing this Victorian comedy of manners in a well thought and highly comical production! The show is directed by Fritz Ketchum a new director to the Austin area who is quickly making her mark! I have seen 3 shows directed by Ketchum and I have loved them all. Ketchum uses Earnest to showcase her love of Oscar Wilde and her skill at keeping classical theatre fresh and interesting. The casting in this show is for the most part perfection.
The cast consist of some Austin Regulars and a few new faces. Leading the pack is Robert Slack as Algernon Moncrieff and Clay Avery as John “Jack” Worthing, both actors bring a great deal of boyish charm to their roles. I have seen Avery in several shows, and until now I had not been very impressed. However, with this show I have a new found fondness for Mr. Avery. His performance as John Worthing was excellent his balance between being a foolhardy young man and the struggle of being a responsible guardian to Cecily was spot on. Slack as Algernon is a treat he is silly and carefree and sassy, the perfect mix for such a silly character. The ladies of the show are beautiful and talented. Jesselyn Parks in the role of Cecily Cardew shines like a brand new star. I am sure she will go places! The real beauty of the show however is Jessica Riley as Gwendolen Fairfax, her acting skills are delightful but it’s that face that makes perfect sense for her casting. Riley is the perfect English Rose.
There is one area where I would slightly complain about. The casting of Lady Bracknell and Mrs. Prism. Both ladies are very talented that is not my complaint. My complaint is that I feel they should have been cast in the opposite roles. Kara Bliss as Lady Bracknell is good, but too demure and soft for such a lively character. And Maureen Slabaugh as Miss Prism is excellent, but she steals the scene against Bracknell because her character is so large and bold. As I said both ladies are very good I just think the show would have benefitted by having those actresses switch roles.
Aside from that one slight complaint, the show is fantastic the scenic design by the director is a perfect choice to create the mood for each location without a lot of work. Ketchum also designed the costumes for this show which are gorgeous and perfect for the period!
I give this show a Solid 4 out of 5 stars! Don’t miss this delightful comedy! The Importance of Being Earnest continues through July 5 at City Theatre! Go get your tickets now! http://www.citytheatreaustin.org/