A delightful world in which everything had the absurd logic of farce, and everyone played by the farcical rules of the game, was conjured up Saturday afternoon in Burg Theatre at Oklahoma City University, 2501 N Blackwelder.
The OCU, Oklahoma Shakespeare in the Park and Oklahoma City Repertory Theatre version of “The Importance of Being Earnest” was staged on a drawing room set that revolved to become the garden of a country estate.
Tall, fair and handsome, Hunter Paul as Algernon Moncrieff had a field day expounding the advantages of having an imaginary friend — named “Bunbarry” — in the country to get out of social obligations in town.Playing off this comic conceit nicely was Andi Dema as his shorter and darker, but equally well dressed and cynical friend John Worthing, who attributes all his bad behavior to his fictional brother, “Earnest.”
Complications multiplied when Moncrieff chose to woo his friend’s ward Cecily by becoming “Earnest” while “bunbarrying” in the country — just after Worthing decided to kill off his ne’er-do-well, nonexistent brother in Paris!
Matching the men’s shenanigans were those of Lauren Thompson as the blonde-curled Cecily, and Renee Lawrence as Gwendolen Fairfax, who was both flirtatious, and almost formidable enough to stand up to her mother.
Thompson was hilarious, telling Algernon as “Earnest” they are already engaged, at least in her diary, then teaming up with Lawrence, as they went from instant soul sisters to arch rivals, engaged to the same man (they think).
Michael Jones was comic and commanding, in drag, as the daunting Lady Bracknell, who staunchly opposes Algernon’s marriage to her daughter, Gwendolen, until she learns how much she will eventually be worth.
Supplying an appealing subplot were Kathryn McGill as Cecily’s stern tutor, who has a racy past as a sentimental novelist and mother of a child born out of wedlock, and Dwight Sandell as a reticent reverend, smitten with her.
Other supporting roles were well filled by James Tyler Kirk as the butler in the country, and Brett Garrett as the butler in the city (who likes to sample the alcoholic beverages he is serving).
Setting standards for satire since it was first performed in 1895, Oscar Wilde’s “trivial comedy for serious people,” is a bit of a set piece, but its comic elements operated like clockwork Saturday at OCU.
The joint three-act, two-intermission production, briskly directed by Lance Marsh, with sets by Jack Yates, costumes by Robert Pittenridge, sound by Jeffrey Sherwood and lighting by Kathryn Eader, is highly recommended.
It will be repeated at 8 p.m. April 12, at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. April 13, and at 2 p.m. April 14, at OCU’s Burg Theatre. Tickets are $20 for adults; and $8 for senior citizens, students, and children ages two through 12. Call 297-2264 or visit the website at www.cityrep.com for information.