If you look up the definition of “earnest” you get a slew of synonyms: serious, solemn, grave, sober, humorless and several more. This is not what you should expect when seeing CSU’s production of “The Importance of Being Earnest.”
I showed up at the Outcalt Theatre on the second night of it showing, eager to see another CSU production. The stage was bathed in purple on the walls, with animal print rugs, simple furniture and detailed accents like bouquets of flowers and a silver tea set. It had an atmosphere of attempted elegance and high-class design. Similar to my experience seeing CSU’s “Violet,” it was a full house. The lights began to dim, and a voice with an obvious British accent introduced “The Importance of Being Earnest, a Trivial Comedy for Serious People.”
I fell in love the two leads immediately - Steven Livingston as Algernon Moncriff and Matthew Logan as John Worthington. Their lengthy conversation in the beginning of the show sets the tone for the following story, and their chemistry is off the charts. While they were mirroring each other around the room during the entirety of their scene, it felt like I was watching an elaborate dance. It mesmerized me. Their performances throughout the production never lacked a second. The first act focused on the conversation between Livingston and Logan, then shifted to two other scenes with Suzanna A. Szabados as Lady Bracknell and Brooke Myers as Gwendolen Fairfax - who were equally impressive.
Joining Livingston and Logan about halfway through Act I, Szabados and Myers added a deeper sense of nonsensicality to the whole play - which is what Wilde intended. Szabados, playing the part of a high-class, overbearing aunt and mother, made sure to emphasize her tone and speech pattern to make the character even more hilarious and terrifying. Myers, a familiar face from other productions like “Violet,” fits into her character as well, though doesn’t fully shine past the other performances until Act II.
After intermission, the second act began with a whole new setting. Instead of focusing on the interaction between Livingston and Logan’s characters, Act II brought the story to its climax with the whole cast coming together at the end. Their performances together all formed a gigantic ball of charisma, humor and wonderful nonsense. One of the specifics that stood out to me again in Act II was the directorial influence on positioning and the choreography of the character’s movements. Specifically, set outside in a garden, the actors often utilized the presence of a wooden swing, woven with branches of leaves on the ropes. More than once, one of the characters sits and swings while the other faces them and walks front and back. Although it is a minor detail that doesn’t affect the play that much, it thrilled me to see a clever use of space.
Other than spectacular performances from the full cast, the detailing of the costumes and set stood out. Livingston and Logan were dressed in fitted suits, each personalized for their corresponding character. Swimming in plaid, with a blue vest underneath, Livingston felt like a charismatic gay Sherlock Holmes, but lacking the motivation to use his wits for anything other than figuring out how to lead a life of pleasure and mischief. Logan, on the other hand, graced the stage with a handlebar mustache and another three-piece suit featuring a deep maroon tailcoat - which he never ceased to stop emphasizing whenever he took a seat. It made his act even more comical. The dresses of Szabados, Myers and Elizabeth Samsa, who played Cecily Cardew, were also stunning. Szabados, however, surprised me the most out of the three. Her costume consisted of a royal purple dress, an exquisite floral fabric on the sleeves and skirt, and a headpiece that had a stuffed bird on top with long feathers. Myers and Samsa both wore innocent, lightly colored gowns of pink and blue, respectively, each equally beautiful as well.
While some parts of the play at the beginning were a little hard to follow, more my fault than that of the actors or writing, I can’t recommend CSU’s “The Importance of Being Earnest” enough. CSU’s theatre department has never let me down so far, and this cast is not an exception. Adapted and directed by Russ Borski, “The Importance of Being Earnest” is running February 21st thru March 3rd in the Outcalt Theatre.