Oscar Wilde described his most popular play, The Importance of Being Earnest, as ‘exquisitely trivial, a delicate bubble of fancy…’
Julia Glander, who directs Tipping Point Theatre’s current production of The Importance of Being Earnest, takes the playwright seriously. Of course, it helps to know that Oscar Wilde claimed that the serious things of life should be treated with ‘sincere and studied triviality.’ Glander’s approach is to shift the perspective just enough to make Wilde’s soap bubble glisten like a crystal goblet raised in a romantic toast … and dashed into the fireplace.
In this production, the timeframe of the Oscar Wilde classic is nudged out of its Victorian comfort zone and into the uncharted waters of post WWI England. The result is most satisfactory – with Gatsby-era costumes, Jazz Age Music, and a broader interpretation of Oscar Wilde’s brilliant, frivolous dialog. Of course, the fact that this show is staged in-the-round eliminates any pretense of a ‘fourth wall’, and the actors frequently deliver lines directly to and consult with members of the audience – which adds to the freshness of this production.
The cast is a brilliant ensemble of local favorites – 50 percent of whom hail from WSU’s Hilberry Theatre. Tipping Point’s Producing Artistic Director James R. Kuhl embraces the role of Jack Worthing, lending more physical humor to a role that has traditionally relied on Wilde’s dialog for its laughs. This performance is perfectly complemented by Peter Prouty, an intelligent dramatic actor who gives us a delightful and likeable Algernon. Christina L. Flynn is charming as the not-as-innocent-as-she-looks Cecily. And Bryan P. Sage earns extra laughs by playing both of the butlers in the play; he is the dour Lane in Act One and, with the addition of a silly little moustache, is transformed in Act Two into the gushing and decidedly fey Merriman.
The ‘non-Hilberry’ side of the cast has its own robust credentials, having recently played not only at Tipping Point but at the Purple Rose Theatre, Performance Network Theatre, Meadow Brook Theatre, Williamston Theatre and others. Hallie Baird gives us a confident, liberated Gwedolyn who knows what she wants and how to get it. Terry Heck, who recently played the lead in PNT’s award-winning Circle Mirror Transformation, is a savvy and audacious Lady Bracknell. Veterans Ruth Crawford and Hugh Maguire are teamed up as the unlikely lovebirds Miss Prism and the Rev. Cannon Chasuble, D.D., and they bring a certain sweetness to characters that are too often played as pure parody.
The Importance of Being Earnest runs through December 18 at Tipping Point Theatre, located at 361 E. Cady Street in Northville. The curtain rises for evening performances at 8:00 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, with matinees at 3:00 p.m. on Saturday and 2:00 p.m. on Sunday. Tickets are $28 -$30 for adults and $26-$28 for students and senior citizens; they are available by calling the box office at 248-347-0003 or e-mail email@example.com.