Review by Tulis McCall
(22 Dec 2009)
You know those little cake things covered in that hard pastel icing? Petite Fores, named after something I'm certain. I've always tried them ,when offered, only to remember that I don't like them. Too bland and sweet. Like this production.
Now, okay, maybe I'm still reeling from a meal of chicken stuffed with noodles, parmesan, gruyere, and cream. Maybe I'm just a tad sluggish, and if I could have worked up a head of steam I could have laughed as some of the other audience members were. But I didn't feel like working that hard.
The original play, The Importance of Being Ernest, is melodramatic farce. Wilde is commenting on the English much the same way as Alan Ayckbourn does today. Here, men and women of a certain social strata are overcome with that breathless love that consumes those with little between their. Characters are glued to their beliefs – as in the desire to marry someone named Ernest – with such fierceness that shaking them off their foundation takes precious little effort.
Perhaps it is the addition of music that slows the pacing of this story. Nearly every one of the 17 songs has more than one verse, which adds unnecessary padding to the evening. Wilde’s use of words is precise. The characters’ names alone are proof of that. The musical numbers lacked that verbal precision, and the verbosity lets the air out of the evening.
The Irish Repertory Theater is one of those wonderful old "we can make this space work!" eras. The stage is a square in one corner of the room. It is held in place by what I assume to be a structural pillar. The majority of the audience is seated in the long area of the room, but there is a little pocket of seats off to the left at a right angle to the main audience grouping. In every production I have seen, no one pays the least attention to these audience members. This was especially so in this production, which may have been another element that created imbalance. To perform an entire show on a stage that has two sides, and play to only one of them is stifling in the extreme. The actors – excellent every one – are straight jacketed.
The result is a dull evening that the actors work hard to bring to life, but the desired result is never quite achieved.