Los Angeles Theater Review: THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST (Queer Classics at Actors Company)

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by Jason Rohrer on June 15, 2014

in Theater-Los Angeles


Mason McCulley, Nancy La Scala, Philip Orazio in THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST.Radically altering the circumstances of a revered text is the prerogative of any new production.  It’s one of the methods theater reserves to drag fusty old plays into the present.  And if you look at the Queer Classics version of The Importance of Being Earnest as taking place in a Sartre-esque vacuum, a parallel-universe 19th Century England akin to the Star Trek episode in which the Enterprise crew visits the O.K. Corral, then it’s absolutely fine that men are named Gwendolen or Cecily, and that gay marriage is a given circumstance under Queen Victoria.  Casey Kringlen has not done a great deal to provide the other-worldliness necessary to such a conceit.  (It wouldn’t take much; nothing expensive, anyway.  Many are the ways.)  His pacing, tonality, and orchestration of bits also are uneven, veering from the meticulous to the messy.  Fortunately for him, and for us, some of his cast provides such brilliant renderings that for long stretches, the jarring elements are quite overcome by excellent line readings and physicalizations.  It certainly provides more laughs than a night in Reading Gaol.

Philip Orazio and Boone Platt in THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST.In Oscar Wilde’s London, a man could (and in the Irishman’s case, did) find himself clapped in irons for behaving as the men on this stage behave.  One may argue about whether reimagining this history honors or insults Wilde’s memory, and that of all the men punished under vice laws (Englishwomen, famously, benefited from the Queen’s refusal to treat the subject of lesbianism).  But surely there can be no dispute that as the two adolescent objects of free-market matrimonial machinations in this play, Mason McCulley and Grant Jordan find pretty much all there is to be found in the way of Grant Jordan, Megan Soule in THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST.humor, thematic illustration, and plain old adorability.  These are very beautiful and smart young men.  (Their uncredited but delightful costumes don’t hurt one bit.)  Boone Platt’s Jack is a recognizable, intelligently presented, and lovable market force, busily reinventing himself to improve his standing, and as the dry servants Lane and Merriman, Eric DeLoretta finds more opportunity for mischief and clever business than any two actors I’ve seen play the roles.  Philip Orazio has less success rooting Algernon in a human context; his characterization rattles between nightclub impressions of Roddy McDowell and Paul Lynde, but if he tried a little less hard he would be perfect.

Oddly, Nancy La Scala’s Lady Bracknell, Megan Soule’s Miss Prism, and Jeff Elam’s Dr. Chasuble might have been lifted part and parcel from any straight production.  Maybe it’s not that odd.  It’s a Fringe show, after all, and what is Fringe if not the home of uncompleted gestures.  But what a difference a good script makes!


photos by Teena Pugliese

Philip Orazio, Grant Jordan in THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST.The Importance of Being Earnest
Queer Classics
part of the Hollywood Fringe Festival
Let Live Theatre at the Actors Company
916 N. Formosa Ave in Hollywood
scheduled to end on July 14, 2014
for tickets, call (323) 455-4585
or visit www.hollywoodfringe.org
for more info, visit www.facebook.com/qclassics

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