The wonderful word-filled-nonsense of Oscar Wilde’s “The Importance of Being Earnest” is at the Brown County Playhouse in a delightful production directed by Jonathan Michaelsen.
Once again Wilde’s young slackers: Algernon, the delightfully flexible David Sheehan, and Jack, the somewhat stiffer Erik Friedman, pursue their private hijinks. Jack who lives a decorous life in the country escapes to the city through the agency of an imaginary needy and dissolute younger brother. Algernon’s city life is not so decorous as Jack’s country posing. His escapes come as trips to visit, Bunbury, an imaginary invalid. Bunbury’s health’s ups and downs coincide nicely with Algernon’s needs for relief.
On one of his visits to the city the adventuring Jack is smitten with Algernon’s amorous cousin Gwendolen, Lauren Morris Bertram. In the next act, Algernon is equally taken by Jack’s country ward, the glittering Cecily, Anjanette Hall Armstrong. However, there are-as you either knew or guessed-objections to the courtships.
Standing in the way of Jack and Gwendolen’s happiness, steaming through the production like a dreadnaught, is her mother Lady Bracknall, Martha Jacobs. It seems that she is a little put off by the fact that Jack seems to be able to produce no family ties more substantial than a large leather handbag in which he was found in Victoria Station. Jack takes revenge by refusing to permit Cecily, the extremely attractive personally and financially Cecily, to marry Algernon.
Things, as things will in this sort of drawing room insurgency, do of course get sorted out, but in a nicely intricate Oscar Wildean way. The cast boasts delightful secondary players with David Cole as a nicely turned country reverend, Holly Holbrook as the dotty tutor and former maid Miss Prism, and Adam O. Crow as both Algernon and Jack’s butler. Just a note about Adam O. Crow, he was a formidable figure as Algernon’s butler in the city, but it was in the country at Jack’s that his variety took a delightful turn.
Crow’s posture, his knowledgeable, bemused command seemed to me to echo IU’s great President and Chancellor Herman Wells. Wells was always a champion of the arts and an eager patron. It was almost as if his presence was hovering about. I think he would have laughed out loud.
The Brown County Playhouse’s production of Oscar Wilde’s classic “The Importance of Being Earnest,” plays Wednesdays through Saturdays at eight and Sundays at two through August.
You can listen to an interview with Martha Jacobs and David Sheehan on our Arts Interviews page .