Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

January 12, 2024

REVIEW: Majestic Theater, "The Importance of Being Earnest"

Majestic Theater, West Springfield, MA
through February 4, 2024
by Shera Cohen

Photo by Katie Rankin
Oscar Wilde subtitled his best-known play, “The Importance of Being Earnest,” as “a trivial
comedy for serious people”. Those words were certainly a pro pos in 1890’s England. It is likely that none, but the upper crust of London attended theatre. If those patrons of 120+ years-ago could laugh at themselves and their ilk, then Wilde’s work was a success.

Apparently, “Earnest’s” climb to the near-top of the “old chestnut” history of plays is the reason that thousands of productions are performed by hundreds of theatre troupes each year.

The Majestic’s 2023/24 season, as well as several in recent years, focuses a good deal on new plays and/or contemporary writers. Bravo! If no one had given Shakespeare, Moliere, and Wilde, et al, opportunities and stages, where would the importance of theatre be now?

Quickly into Act I, of the three-act play, “Earnest’s” plot is clear. In the stylized format of many theatre pieces, included are mistaken identities, foundlings finding families, servants far more knowing than their employers, and instant coupling (usually 3 = 6 people).

With Rand Foerster, the director at the helm, and a cast of primarily Equity actors, “Earnest” successfully brings out the humor of the turn of the last century and interprets it to modern-day Majestic patrons.

Rylan Morsbach and Peter Evangelista (characters Jack and Algernon, respectively) are at the crux of the shenanigans. Both, at one time or another, are named Earnest, making for funny confusion. Morsbach, as the serious Earnest, often performs at Berkshire Theatre Group, will undoubtedly go far in his career. Evangelista portrays the more frivolous Earnest. This is essentially a “buddy play”.

Caelie Scott Flanagan and Alexandra O’Halloran (Cecily and Gwendolyn) portray the fianc├ęs. True love at first sight accentuates the farce. Flanagan matches Cecily with frivolity and naivete. O’Halloran is far more severe in language and stance; equal to serious Earnest.

The final of the three duos are Miss Prism (Krista Lucas) and Reverend Chasuble (Peter Hicks) in supporting roles. Yet, it is this match that steals the stage. Lucas, especially, depicts Miss Prism as dour but with hidden sparks of passion and humor.

In a key role moving the play forward is Lisa Abend (Lady Bracknell). Representing the top of London’s caste system, Bracknell’s all-business sets every important of the play into place.

No role is too small. Tom Dahl, as the butler, takes every advantage to deliver vocal and physical humor. He is a natural.

“Earnest” is costumed and coiffed well, from polished spats to feather hats.

The show date was only the third, yet every audience member deserves the best that the company and venue can offer each night. Yes, the 3-act play moved quickly, but oftentimes with lines thrown away as asides; the audience waits for punchlines. Many moments were neglected when opportunities for laughs could have easily occurred simply by a pause. Perhaps as the play’s run continues, the director, cast, or audience will notice that “Earnest” has more potential in an otherwise excellent production.