The Importance of Being Earnest/ Travesties
Rapid-fire comedy takes the stage at Cygnet Theatre as the crew occupying the Old Town Theatre tackles one comedic and one absurd classic in Oscar Wilde’s "The Importance of Being Earnest" and Tom Stoppard’s "Travesties" playing in repertory through Oct. 27.
In Wilde’s satire on Victorian society and triviality, Cygnet’s cast absolutely lights the stage on fire with machine gun paced dialogue as well as some brilliant physical comedy. Every laugh was found, even in a few wonderful moments of dead air, and the audience was left with little recourse but to leap to their feet at the curtain call.
Led by the talented (and ambiguous -- in true Wilde fashion) Jordan Miller as Algernon Moncrieff and the superbly entertaining Brian Mackey as Jack Worthington, "Earnest" redlines in the second act and this cast does not take the pedal off the accelerator until the final bow.
Guided by Cygnet Artistic Director Sean Murray, a successful production is only possible with a brilliant surrounding cast. This includes a spot-on Linda Libby as Lady Bracknell, the arrogant socialite mother of Gwendolyn (Jacque Wilke) who is Jack’s love interest.
Wilke’s cohort, Rachael Vanwormer, portrays Cecily, Algernon’s eventual bride. These two portray an entertaining almost Victorian version of "Three’s Company" characters Janet and Chrissy, playfully feeding off the others’ lines and generously setting up the next punchline for one another.
The same cast also tackles Tom Stoppard’s absurd comedy "Travesties" and expertly handles a rather difficult and dense script. Taking place in the mind of a real-life British historical figure, Henry Carr, as he remembers his own performance in a production of "Earnest," "Travesties" explores what those memories may look like in a mind slowly sinking into senility.
Mixed up are his memories of the play along with his experiences crossing paths with Hugo Chavez, Tristan Tzara, and James Joyce in Zurich during World War I.
It must be stated that Theatre of the Absurd is not everyone’s cup of tea. Indeed absurdism often contains themes of existentialism, surrealism, Dadaism and anti-bourgeois attitudes and Stoppard does not disappoint. In fact, during intermission I overheard one theatregoer comment, "I feel like I just got out of a history lecture." If only my history class were this entertaining.
"Travesties" is difficult to digest but for the sheer art of it, it is one show that should not be missed. Showcasing the pure talent of this cast and crew and consummately directed (again) by Sean Murray, this performance showcases the abilities of Jordan Miller who takes the elder character of Henry Carr and melts into a decades younger version in just a few steps on stage.
Sean Fanning pads his resume with another well thought-out set that is uber functional, bridges both productions and becomes a stage character in its own right. Shirley Pierson’s costume design is superb and Peter Herman’s wig and make-up design spectacular.
Top to bottom this was one of the most well-rounded and spectacularly produced shows I have seen in Old Town. Cygnet’s star is quickly rising and shows like these have them challenging the likes of the La Jolla Playhouse and the Old Globe. Indeed true lovers of theatre cannot, and should not, overlook this little theatre-that-could and these shows in repertory have a lot to offer to both the casual and the intellectual theatre-goer.
"The Importance of Being Earnest" and "Travesties" run in repertory through October 27 at the Old Town Theatre, 4040 Twiggs Street, in Old Town San Diego. For info or tickets, call 619-337-1525 or visit www.cygnettheatre.org.