Comedy Review Print



Actors Comedy Lab: Dramatist Nancy Rich's Southern-Fried Adaptation of The Importance of Bein' Earnest Sparkles

& Mini-Preview: Actors Comedy Lab: The Importance of Bein' Earnest

August 7, 2005 - Raleigh, NC:


The Importance of Bein’ Earnest, Actors Comedy Lab co-founder and co-producer Nancy Rich’s Southern-fried adaptation of Irish poet, playwright, and wit Oscar Wilde’s “Trivial Comedy for Serious People,” puts a new polish on this comic gem originally set in London, circa 1895, by transposing the characters and events to the some of the posher addresses of the Holy City (Charleston, SC), circa 1926.

In assembling an all-star cast for a splendid staged reading last Saturday and Sunday at the Raleigh City Museum, the playwright and her husband, director Rod Rich, proved conclusively that Nancy Rich’s clever condensation of this perennial crowd favorite deserves a full-scale production, sometime in the near future. Indeed, if Nancy and Rod Rich can reassemble the same cast, they have a sure-fire hit and one of the top 10 productions of this or any other Triangle theater season.

Scott Nagel and David McClutchey were delightfully droll as John Worthing, J.P., and Algernon Moncrieff, two handsome but somewhat snooty and deceitful young men about town in search of attractive young women to woo. When in London, country squire Jack Worthing pretends to be his imaginary ne’er-do-well younger brother Ernest, whereas his feckless friend Algie Moncrieff has invented an imaginary invalid friend, Mr. Bunbury, whose persistent ill health provides him a ready excuse to leave London when his credit runs low or ennui overtakes him, whichever comes first.

Gigi De Lizza and Katie Anderson are simply marvelous as the Hon. Gwendolen Fairfax, the well-to-do but shallow society girl for whom Jack tumbles head over heels, and Miss Cecily Cardew, Jack’s innocent but incurably romantic 18-year-old ward with whom Algie falls in love at first sight. Nagel and De Lizza and McClutchey and Anderson comprise two couples with great comic chemistry, and their sizable bumps on the rocky road to marriage and living happily ever after are objects of much mirth.

Tony Hefner, ACL’s man of a thousand roles (all performed to comic perfection), is once again right on target with his pithy performances as the impecunious Moncrieff’s ever-resourceful butler Merriman, the comparably well-heeled Worthing’s ever-discreet manservant Lane, and the celibate but romantically vulnerable The Rev. Canon Chasuble, D.D.

Bunny Safron is a scream as the formidable Lady Bracknell, a woman of wealth and social position who leaves no opinion unexpressed; but Jan Doub Morgan steals the show with her gloriously goofy characterization of the absent-minded governess Miss Prism, whose literary aspirations contributed to a terrible mistake some 29 years ago in one of London’s larger railway stations.

Jan Morgan is one of the Triangle’s finest actresses, and director Rod Rich has no peer locally when it comes to directing off-kilter contemporary comedies or a celebrated comedy of manners, such as his wife Nancy’s absolutely inspired adaptation of this comic masterpiece by Oscar Wilde.

Actors Comedy Lab: http://www.actorscomedylab.com/. Raleigh City Museum: http://www.raleighcitymuseum.org/. The Importance of Being Earnest (the e-text of Oscar Wilde’s 1895 hit): http://isis.library.adelaide.edu.au/pg/etext97/tiobe10.txt [inactive 9/05].


MINI-PREVIEW: Actors Comedy Lab: The Importance of Bein' Earnest

by Robert W. McDowell

Importance of Bein' Earnest (Actors Comedy Lab, 7:30 Aug. 6 and 3 p.m. Aug. 7 at Raleigh City Museum, 220 Fayetteville Street Mall (the Old Briggs
Building), Raleigh, NC) is a free staged reading of ACL co-founder and co-producer Nancy Rich's hilarious new adaptation of The Importance of Being Earnest (1895), subtitled "A Trivial Comedy for Serious People," by Irish poet, playwright, and raconteur Oscar Wilde. ACL writes, "Nancy Rich ... has crafted this clever adaptation that moves the setting of the play to 1920s Charleston, South Carolina. Plan to arrive early and look around this wonderful Raleigh historic building." ACL says there will be "Coffee and cookies. Free admission. Free parking. Free Southern dialects." For more information about this show visit http://www.actorscomedylab.com/next.html. For more information about Actors Comedy Lab, visit http://www.actorscomedylab.com/. For more information about the Raleigh City Museum, visit http://www.raleighcitymuseum.org/. Note: Tickets are free.