TKC Theater has entered a democratic age, and like the Greeks before it, provided its people a tale of itself. The motivations for mounting this Wilde classic are many: purport chastity, provide laughs, inquire of an actual offstage romance between Catherine Ratcliffe and Ray Davison. Regardless, the TKC production of The Importance of Being Earnest was like water to the parched: pleasant and refreshing.
Amelia Peterson’s first time directing a TKC production was composed and brimming with those wonderful hashtags we like so much here. #PassionateCelibacy
A story of mistaken identities, complicated engagements and oppressive prudence could easily be an Interregnum creative writing prompt, yet it is a riotously funny English play about truth and circumstance. The truth being the circumstance’s inherently happy ending. While we’re all somewhat aware of the source material, TKCT enlivened the production with in the round staging.
Ladies and butlers and cucumber sandwiches helped air some of the play’s esotericism; the audience members even became objects of asides, giving them a sense of ownership and presence in Wilde’s world.
In this off-color world are a plethora of engaging characters.
There’s Taylor Pope’s John “Jack” Worthing, who is noble if disadvantaged by unknown origins. He stays afloat with the help of passed benefactors, until it comes time for Jack to make something happen for himself.
Uncooperative with Jack’s noble goals is the impulsive best friend Algernon Moncrieff, played with annoying fortitude by Colton Knoepfle. His nonchalant lack of social inhibitions endears him to us. He is just a boy in need of a wife. Then there’s the contained schizophrenia of Varut Chee’s butlers, Lane and Merriman. He gave a solid comic performance, always attentive and present for the madcap events.
Rounding out the men was Ray Davison as the stoic Dr. Chausible, whose chastity is on the outs. It’s hardly a stretch to think of Ray as an English rector donning a robe every morning.
The men were engaging, but this is largely a play for the women. Catherine Ratcliffe held the audience’s attention. Even during the all-cast transitions to “Sabre Dance,” I sought out her quickened step and concerned face. When Catherine’s Ms. Prism finally took stage I was not disappointed by her girlish maw.
Leah Rabe’s Gwendolyn was a congenial choice, her sweet voice added wonders to her repose. I felt her austerity right away. Then there’s her mother, the prickly Lady Bracknell, who would break every bone in your societal body. Rachel Kyle utilized Bracknell’s aversion to spontaneity with great chops. I didn’t know one’s eyes could get so wide.
Finally, Cecily. So, there’s a sliding scale to ingenues. There’s Snow White and then there’s Jessica Rabbit, maybe. The point is Heather Cate stole my heart. Her sweet and sour nature, along with her grasp of everyday poetry and love invigorated her character. Twirling around her garden, watering the audience, Cate resembled a sprite. Her energy is infectious, breaking even Bracknell at the end. It’s clear Cecily is the only match for Algernon’s naughtiness.
The cast is a unit, epitomized by the final pairing of sexes at show’s end. Kayla Redd, the talented costume designer should be equally lauded for her remarkable feat recreating 20th century elitism. The hats, vests, ascots and pocketwatches were a new level of professionalism for this theater company. Yes, when you applaud at the close of this show, which you undoubtedly will, you’ll be applauding a new era of TKCT.
This production made me feel this was a school effort, one of many voices. Next Wednesday TKCT will further its Grecian tendencies and hold a public forum about Oscar Wilde’s world. Author Dan Sidell will be a knowledgeable guest spearheading the conversation about the controversial playwright. And if you haven’t already noticed, you’ve been inundated by cheeky ads spread around campus. Happy Inception!
Considering all these ventures and successes, I say long live the company’s Grecian attitude. Here’s to even better theater in the future.
TKC’s production of The Importance of Being Earnest is showing Saturday, April 20th at 2pm and 8pm and Sunday, April 21st at 3pm.