Talented Performers, Intimate Setting Boost Wmc's 'Earnest'

April 29, 1992|By Tim Weinfeld | Tim Weinfeld,Contributing theater critic

WESTMINSTER — Tim Weinfeld's review on April 29 of "The Importance of Being Earnest, A Trivial Comedy for Serious People" should have stated that Ira Domser was the technical director and the set designers were Steven Parsons and Sara Lundberg.

WESTMINSTER -- In spring, a young man's fancy turns toward love, and so does the Western Maryland College Theater, with its choice of Oscar Wilde's "Trivial Comedy for Serious People, the Importance of Being Earnest" as the season's final production.

This famous play, three years shy of its centennial and teeteringbetween comedy and farce, relates the amorous adventures of two young upper-class Englishmen who are, respectively, the personification of gravity and levity.

The objects of their affections are similarly disposed and after overcoming the antagonism of a monumental aunt and a minuscule concern for given names, each male couples with the appropriate female and we assume they will live happily ever after.

The aunt, Lady Bracknell, is one of the most cherished and coveted comic roles in dramatic literature. In this production, Sierra Hurtt does nothing to alter the tradition of the successful and hilarious portrayal of this overbearing, grand and eventually silly woman. Hurtt is excellent.

Christopher Patrick and Steve Zumbrun are delightful and charming as the young suitors.

Patrick is appropriately serious and severe without losing the gentle humor that makes audiences care about him. Zumbrun is angular and animated as the eventually reformed profligate Algernon, whose devilish grin and engaging effete manner enhance this characterization.

Hurtt and Patrick are the only members of this company able to present and sustain anything near a British dialect.

Kate Winkler, as Cecily, is missing only the dialectin a characterization of great integrity and believability. She epitomizes the Wilde ingenue and embellishes her with a highly musical vocal approach and an adorable Mary Pickford coiffure.

Having the two butlers played by a single actor is certainly valid and Reid Wraaseis a wonderful foil for his master in Act 1. His Act 3 appearance, while apparently appreciated by the Sunday night audience, was inappropriately distorted within the world created in the rest of the production.

For many reasons, "Earnest" works best in a setting both formal and intimate. This is difficult to achieve and WMC designer Ira Domser succeeds by placing this production on the stage of Alumni Hallwith the audience sharing the space in an arena configuration.

Steve Miller has provided costumes most fitting, in both senses of the word. Hurtt's feathered bonnets are both appropriate for the character and a hoot.

The closeness of the audience does allow the awareness of a loose hem or an anachronistic zipper. This is to be expected.

What is not to be expected is the wristwatch on one of the characters and modern rings on more than one of the characters.

Also rather jarring is the appearance of the crew. In a production where, as one of the women says, style is more important than sincerity, one might expect some consciousness around the sartorial accouterment of the scene changers.

This is a light and diverting production which, despite the lack of BBC British, should appeal to many members of thecommunity. For some reason this production boasted two Dramaturgs, an embarrassment of riches. Why not trade one for a dialect coach?

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