Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Theater Review: Ernest in Love

Ian Holcomb (Algernon), Beth Fowler (Lady Bracknell),
Brad Bradley (Lane). Photo by Carol Rosegg
Not in Love with Ernest in Love
By Lauren Yarger
Beth Fowler’s portrayal of Lady Bracknell in the Irish Repertory Theatre’s Off-Broadway production of Oscar Wilde’s 19th-century tale “The Importance of Being Ernest” is the best part of the show. As for the rest of it, let's just say I wasn't in love with Ernest in Love.

Fowler is a hoot as the snooty and controlling matriarch in the tale of romance and mistaken identity. When she’s not on stage, you’ll probably be wondering just how many times musical numbers written by Lee Pockriss can begin with one actor singing, joined by a second actor singing (not always quite on the note), followed by a music break where they do a little dance (choreography by Barry McNabb), followed by a duet to finish the song. Answer: most of them and after a while, the repetitious tunes (I had “A Handbag is Not a Proper Mother” replaying annoyingly in my head for days), predictable lyrics (Anne Croswell, who also write the book that stays true to the Wilde story) and a fairly uninspired tale (along with the theater’s furnace working overtime the day I saw it) combine to make it difficult to keep from nodding off.

The story revolves around Ernest (Noah Racey), who’s not really Ernest, but Jack Worthing who manufactures a troublesome brother named Ernest who needs his attention, so he can go to city to visit the woman he loves and daughter of Lady Bracknell, Gwendolyn (Annika Boras). In the city, Gwendolyn’s cousin Algernon Moncrieff (Ian Holcomb) invents a friend named Bunbury which allows him to go to the country to avoid social obligations, but where he falls in love with Jack’s ward, Cicely (Katie Fabel) who thinks he is Ernest.

There are a number of servants involved in their own trysts, (Brad Bradley, Kerry Conte, Kristin Griffith and Peter Maloney round out the cast), attempts at christenings of new names and several episodes of mistaken and discovered identity, and then, you guessed it, the song “Ernest in Love.” The second act is more entertaining than the rather long first one as Fowler, Fabel, Holcomb and Bradley are able to tap more into their comedic skills, directed by Charlotte Moore.

Mark Hartman directs the four-member orchestra housed stage right where they play skillfully, but from where the sounds of their instruments are a little too overwhelming in the small space. Linda Fisher’s period costumes are adequate (I really liked Algie's robe) and the action takes place on a mostly bare stage where two free-standing doors offer some changes for different scenes (James Morgan, set design).

The run at Irish Repertory Theatre, 132 West 22nd St., NYC has been extended through Feb. 14. Tickets are available by calling 212.727.2737.

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Our reviews are professional reviews written without a religious bias. At the end of them, you can find a listing of language, content or theological issues that Christians might want to know about when deciding which shows to see.

** Mature indicates that the show has posted an advisory because of content. Usually this means I would recommend no one under the age of 16 attend.

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

My Bio

Lauren Yarger has written, directed and produced numerous shows and special events for both secular and Christian audiences. She co-wrote a Christian musical version of “A Christmas Carol” which played to sold-out audiences of over 3,000 in Vermont and was awarded the 2000 Vermont Bessie (theater and film awards) for “People’s Choice for Theatre.” She also has written two other dinner theaters, sketches for church services and devotions for Christian artists.

Yarger trained for three years in the Broadway League’s Producer Development Program, completed the Commercial Theater Institute's Producing Three-Day Training and produced a one-woman musical about Mary Magdalene that toured nationally and closed with an off-Broadway run.

She was a Fellow at the National Critics Institute at the O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford, CT. She writes reviews of Broadway and off-Broadway theater (the only ones you can find in the US with an added Christian perspective) at http://reflectionsinthelight.blogspot.com/.

She is editor of The Connecticut Arts Connection (http://ctarts.blogspot.com), an award-winning website featuring theater and arts news for the state. She is a contributing editor for BroadwayWorld.com and is a theater reviewer for the Manchester Journal-Inquirer. She previously served as Connecticut theater editor for CurtainUp.com and as Connecticut and New York reviewer for American Theater Web.

Yarger is a book reviewer for Publishers Weekly and freelances for other sites. She is a member of the National Book Critics Circle.

She is a freelance writer and playwright and member of The Drama Desk, The Outer Critics Circle, The American Theater Critics Association and The League of Professional Theatre Women. She served as a judge for the SDX Awards presented by the Society of Professional Journalists. She also is a member of the Connecticut Critics Circle and the CT Press Club.

A former newspaper editor and graduate of the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism, Yarger also worked in arts management for the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts, the Hartford Symphony Orchestra and served for nine years as the Executive Director of Masterwork Productions, Inc. She lives with her husband in West Granby, CT. They have two adult children.

Copyright

All material is copyright 2008- 2017 by Lauren Yarger. Reviews and articles may not be reprinted without permission. Contact reflectionsinthelight@gmail.com

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Key to Content Notes:

God's name taken in vain -- means God or Jesus is used in dialogue without speaking directly to or about them.

Language -- means some curse words are used. "Minor" usually means the words are not too strong or that it only occurs once or twice throughout the show.

Strong Language -- means some of the more heavy duty curse words are used.

Nudity -- means a man or woman's backside, a man's lower front or a woman's front are revealed.

Scantily clad -- means actors' private areas are technically covered, but I can see a lot of them.

Sexual Language -- means the dialogue contains sexually explicit language but there's no action.

Sexual Activity -- means a man and woman are performing sexual acts.

Adultery -- Means a married man or woman is involved sexually with someone besides their spouse. If this is depicted with sexual acts on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Sex Outside of Marriage -- means a man and woman are involved sexually without being married. If this is depicted sexually on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Homosexuality -- means this is in the show, but not physically depicted.

Homosexual activity -- means two persons of the same sex are embracing/kissing. If they do more than that, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Cross Dresser -- Means someone is dressing as the opposite sex. If they do more than that on stage the listing would include the corresponding "sexual activity" and/or "homosexual activity" as well.

Cross Gender -- A man is playing a female part or a woman is playing a man's part.

Suggestive Dancing -- means dancing contains sexually suggestive moves.

Derogatory (category added Fall 2012) Language or circumstances where women are referred to or treated in a negative and demeaning manner.

Other content matters such as torture, suicide or rape will be noted, with details revealed only as necessary in the review itself.

The term "throughout" added to any of the above means it happens many times throughout the show.

Reviewing Policy

I receive free seats to Broadway and Off-Broadway shows made available to all voting members of the Outer Critics Circle and The Drama Desk, the two professional critics organizations with journalists covering NY theater. Journalistically, I provide an unbiased review and am under no obligation to make positive statements. Sometimes shows do not make tickets available to reviewers. If these are shows my readers want to know about (I review all Broadway shows and pertinent Off-Broadway shows), I will purchase a ticket. If a personal friend is involved in a production, I'll let you know, but it won't influence a review. If I feel there is a conflict, I won't review their portion of the production.

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