Beyond the gap-toothed seating hangs a mirror on the fourth wall (itself never broken) waiting for the grooming sessions. A man will paw at his facial hair a shave or two different to the man on the playbill cover. We are in this kind of deceit.
Lane (John Neikirk) sidles between the crack of the curtain backdrop, white makeup lathering that face from toff to chin. A distressed look. A sign, a cry for help, through the mirror on the wall about how the servant finds his master. Or it may be not. It certainly is a distraction, that look of the given-out. Surveying the cucumber-less cucumber sandwiches and dishing out all sorts of disdain down the bridge of his nose as his master rushes back and forth.
Algernon (Chris Harris) keeps eating and then stashing the cucumber sandwiches into his pocket. Right pocket no less, and never fully gone. One bite left, and into the lining. The satin robe rippling as his hands smooth into the crack and drop off another slice of bread, another slice of life. Hiding in plain sight, but hiding nonetheless. A taste for the staid, that certain look of proper society, but having the stomach for only so much, then tempted once more to nibble at its crustless edge.
This is either a waste of food, or poverty's scent and a commentary on the stipend being that you resort to taking away with you props from the set to ration out later in the week. Of course, this is also another way for Algernon to subconsciously play into the whole framework of The Importance of Being Earnest in that it's only enough to eat what you can before you quicken away the rest lest it upset the stomach to gorge yourself where you don't belong.
From food we follow into fabrics.
Ill-fitting clothes at that. Pant legs knocked at the knees and flowing with so much space between skin and fabric. Cuffs dragging at the heels. The veritable language of that speaks to how personas either fit us well or dress us down in a shower curtain.
The two men, Jack (Chris Dickens) and Algernon, are not without a roomy seat and the flow suggests they're sloshing around in these suits, these clothes, that aren't just snug. Lady Bracknell's (Amber Frangos) collar choking back that sunroom of society where you can't make a move without a purse. They don't fit because they don't fit.
At least we can hear poor ghostly, ghastly Lane. The other servant, Merriman (John Dennison), is barely audible, speaking from his shoulders and making the audience lean in for that line. It's enough to make you clench your teeth, throw in an English accent and cast from the lower jaw. Cecily (Sarah Wood) and Jack rival each other on energy, that life breathing into Wilde's words. Cecily keeps the level steady and up. The more Jack goes on the more the façade keeps breaking into his voice's patience. Juggling a double-life works its way into the performance.
The Importance of Being Earnest dashes to the end as they hold down each other into the lake and watch the bubbles slowly peter out amid the thrashing of arms and raging silence of lungs filling with water. Yet how, in the face of people coming to take a closer look at the personas, can these secondary identities escape anything short of ruin? If not ruin, then a settlement of terms, a washing away of existence.
The message—wry at times, but stifling at most—is a need to fully embrace, truly drape yourself in your other identity. You either hoist it up and walk about with an air of confidence and conviction, or you scramble through calling cards and nameplates as sweat drips on your fingers as you look for the one that bears your name. Whichever that happens to be.
After all it is a task, a continuing, concerted effort, to create out of whole cloth a new person and to keep a straight face as you switch back and forth between the two. Even if the other never appears in public.
Supplanted on one side at the 19:30 5 March 2016 performance by Flashback Theater, as directed by Sommer Schoch, at the Carnegie Community Arts Center. After the 15 minute intermission, the second act leaves waste in the lower half hitting the roof of two hours. This is what shifting a spinal disc out of place feels like.
Reviewed on Friday, 18 March 2016