Props to Court Theatre artistic director Charles Newell, who is constantly rethinking and reconfiguring theatrical classics. The results can be exceptionally clean and modern, without gratuitous frills—like a piece of expensive mid-century furniture. This time out, Newell’s approach—which includes an unusual design scheme—doesn’t do much for Oscar Wilde’s comedy of social rank and romantic entanglements. The abstract set (designed by Geoffrey M. Curley) involves a whole lot of work for the stagehands, and not much payoff for the audience. I’m all in favor of abandoning the Victorian drawing-room setting, but the color-saturated floor coverings—blue suede, then red Astroturf and finally purple velvet—are oddly distracting. Your eye is fixated on the stuff onstage, rather than the people on stage. And so, the importance of casting. The fun of this play is its catalogue of bon mots: the smug, the pithy, the devastating. Sean Allen Krill’s Jack Worthing (the sweet but deceitful chap who is “Earnest in town, Jack in the country”) and Mary Beth Fisher’s cold fish Lady Bracknell reel off their lines with a palpable snap. Others in the ensemble have less success, coming off as overly strident or, in the case of Lance Stuart Baker’s Algernon (Jack’s devilish London pal), goofy in all the wrong ways. Baker also doesn’t seem entirely comfortable with the physicality of what Newell has in mind. There’s lots of melodramatic posing (to no real effect) and awkward flipping over Astroturf hedges and miniature replicas of London landmarks. The end result feels more clumsy than wonderfully dizzy. (Nina Metz)
This production is now closed.