Theatre

Lots of Laughs and looks at the human condition in April theatre

By Jacqui Theobald

Photo: (l-r) Kylee Pauley as Gwendolen, Kathleen Day as Lady Bracknell, and Anand Sharma as Jack in X*ACT Theater’s ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’; photo: Connie Strait

 

X*ACT goes Wilde with ‘The Importance of Being Earnest,’ March 31–April 9

One of the most delightfully clever playwrights to ever turn a sharp eye on his sophisticated Victorian English world travels to Ohio this week. For a lighthearted, fast-paced romp, you can’t beat Oscar Wilde’s “The Importance of Being Earnest.” Note the spelling. Ernest is earnest, a clue to the tumble of double meanings and inside jokes to come.

The play debuted in 1895 at St. James’s Theatre in London to a sold-out crowd—in a snowstorm—and rave reviews.

The plot and subtitle of the play, “A trivial comedy for serious people,” generated pages of commentary and exclamation points regarding the “lack of meaning.” George Bernard Shaw, influential Irish playwright and critic, called it “heartless,” but Xenia’s X*ACT Theater director Connie Strait has a different view.

“We all lie at some time,” Strait says, “and we all eventually get caught. It really is a universal theme, told with great wit.”

The plot, if it can be explained, begins with John Worthing, also known as Jack, also known as Ernest, arriving from the country to his best friend Algernon Moncrief’s apartment. He plans to propose to Algernon’s cousin Gwendolen Fairfax. However, in the country, he has another love interest, Cecily Cardew, who knows him as Jack and worries about his younger brother, Ernest. Algernon confesses to a non-existent invalid friend in the country.

Gwendolen and her imperious mother come to visit Algernon. Jack proposes to Gwendolen while Algernon distracts the mother, Lady Bracknell. That’s the first act.

Unbelievably, it becomes more complicated, involving deliberately confused identities, discovery, debts owed, revelations, and the title as the play’s concluding line.

The Xenia cast will sound “upper class and very elegant,” according to Strait, but not “teddibly” British. “It is a wonderful cast,” she adds.

Patrick Taylor plays Algernon, Anand Sharma is Jack Worthing, Kathleen Day is Lady Bracknell, and Kylee Pauley, Gwendolen.

Kim Rodgers is Miss Prism, the long-ago nurse who helps solve old mysteries. Katelynn Clark is the ingénue, Cecily Cardew. Others in the cast are Jim Buckner, John Day, and Nicholas Clark. Brian Louis is assistant director and stage manager and Debra Zweber does props and costumes.

Strait is making her directorial debut, after winning a DayTony Award for acting last year. She is enjoying the process of connecting with her cast and seeing her visualization of the show evolve.

Pleasure seems to be connected with this show. As Wilde said on the opening night, “I have enjoyed this evening immensely. The actors have given us a charming rendering of the play and your appreciation of the play has been most intelligent.  Congratulation on the success of your performance, which persuades me you think almost as highly of the play as I do myself. The cast and crew certainly do and we hope you will agree.”

‘The Importance of Being Earnest’ takes the stage Friday, March 31 and runs through April 9 at Xenia Area Community Theater, 45 E. Second St. in Xenia. Opening Night Gala begins at 6:30 p.m. Show is at 3 p.m. Sunday, April 9. All other evening performances are at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $20 for opening night, and for all other nights $17 or $14 for seniors and students. For tickets or more information, please call 937.372.0516 or visit XeniaACT.org.

 

Sinclair goes green with Toxic Avenger, April 7–15

The New York Times called this musical “exuberantly silly,” The Washington Post called it “hilariously funny,” and Sinclair Theater Director Chris Harmon calls working on this campy show, which stays true to the cult B-movies of the ’80s,  “a blast.”

It originated as a 1984 film by Lloyd Kaufman. The play’s 2009 opening was set in a toxic dump and can only go up from there.

The plot involves a mad scientist, a blind librarian, a large green mutant, goons, a love story, seduction, women brawling, and—unbelievably—more. It happens in a New Jersey town called Tromaville, where bleach kills and good clean water restores.

Fortunately, the music by David Bryan explains it all. Joe DiPietro, is also credited with lyrics and book. David McKibben is Sinclair’s musical director.

The Sinclair cast includes Thomas Puckett, Courtney Kakac, Sha-lemar Davis, Elisha Chamberlin, Elisa Fuentes, and Justin Lampkins.

Not suitable for children—or the faint of heart. Though, silliness has neither limit nor era, just invitations to enjoy.

Read the Toxic Avenger review in Dayton City Paper April 11.

Toxic Avenger takes the stage Friday, April 7 and runs through April 15 in Blair Hall Theatre at Sinclair Community College, 444 W. Third St. in downtown Dayton. Show is at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday, and 7 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday. Wednesday and Thursday performances are $10; others are $18 for adults, $15 for students and seniors. American Sign Language on Thursday and Sunday. For tickets or more information, please call 937.512.2808 or visit Sinclair.edu/Tickets.

 

Learn to Dare 2 Defy, Saturdays, May–June

Dare 2 Defy Productions is offering great opportunities for 8–18-year-olds this summer. Register for small classes, Saturdays in May and June, taught by pros and designed to improve audition skills in dance, vocals, and monologues. Plus, there will be a mock audition with feedback. Cost is $75 for all seven classes, or one focus area may be chosen at two classes for $25, plus $15 for mock audition.

Instructors are Jessica Eggleston for dance, Alan Bomar Jones for monologues, and Jessi Stark for vocals. Check with D2D for early registration.

Information on separate summer camps will also be available in May’s On Stage. For more information, please call 937.999.9949 or visit D2Defy.com/summer-camp-2017.

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Jacqui Theobald
Reach DCP theatre critic Jacqui Theobald at JacquiTheobald@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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