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Adagio Teas
   Features  >  NY Theater Reviews

 
THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST
at the Paper Mill Playhouse

SATCHEL EXCHANGE
By SANDY MACDONALD

  Lynn Redgrave,ZoĆ« Winters & Jeffrey Carlson/Ph: Gerry Goodstein

Oscar Wilde's 1894 masterpiece, The Importance of Being Earnest, is as reliable a delight as one could ever hope to find. Still, it's not foolproof. For its wit to shine through, it needs a deft touch - and fabulous production values also don't hurt. Thanks to Alexander Dodge's elegantly stylized sets and snazzy costuming by David Murin, the production currently at the Paper Mill Playhouse can boast all the necessary niceties, along with a compelling marquee name - Lynn Redgrave - as the redoubtable Lady Bracknell.

She's seems born to the role. Though perhaps not as Gorgonesque as some, she's more easily relatable as a parent who has her child's best interests at heart. Director David Schweizerr has made the interesting choice of creating little "timeouts" in which characters address their more general observations about the perils of modern society directly to the audience. It's a smart move that puts us in on the joke and lessens any sense of hectoring.

Wayne Wilcox makes a fine John Worthing - the more priggish "Earnest" - and Jeffrey Carlson is superb as Algernon Moncrieff, the impish "Earnest" who delights in Bunbury capers. Annika Boras (doing a 180 from her chilling recent cameo in Edward Bond's Chair) is spectacular as Gwendolyn, smoothly snooty one moment, a virago once the gloves are off. Only Zoe Winters disappoints as Cecily, engaging in outlandish music-hall mugging at every opportunity. Worthing's ward is a over-protected country lass with a vivid imagination, not a candidate for "Hertfordshire Girls Gone Wild."

Like many a Paper Mill endeavor, this production, with a few minor adjustments, would feel right at home on Broadway. It fully warrants the reverse commute.

 


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