Gender roles play an essential part in much classic literature. How many complex pre-1900 plots would be instantly resolved if a woman could just marry whomever she chose and live the life she wanted? Oscar Wilde’s enduring comedy THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST is an example. And there’s a moment in Mauckingbird Theatre Company’s gender-bent production of the play—as Lady Bracknell (the remarkable Nancy Boykin) is forbidding Gwendolyn (Brent Knobloch) to marry—when the company’s casting creates dissonance, but to a great extent the material benefits from this gender-focused interpretation.
The show’s success is ensured by effervescent performances by the two leads, James Ijames as Algernon and Chancellor Dean as Jack Worthing. Dean’s exuberance is mirrored in the vibrant costumes by Marie Anne Chiment. Of course, Wilde’s classic one-liners have a timeless bite (I found myself laughing at the mere expectation. “To lose one parent…”) and his farce is perfectly suited to campy tones. Indeed, watching EARNEST in Peter Reynolds direction, it’s hard to imagine how the play is ever done, er, straight. August 7-23, 2013. mauckingbird.org.