The Importance of Being Earnest | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

The Importance of Being Earnest 

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One unwelcome discovery in Charles Newell's dogged, faithful three-hour revival of Wilde's masterpiece is how much its wit can wear you down. Not a few lines belabor the obvious or distract without amusing. But instead of rendering the comedy crisper, Newell makes this mannered comedy of manners more deliberate. Lance Stuart Baker's Algernon is almost sinister, his courtship of Cristen Paige's ebullient Cecily almost predatory. Wilde aims to show how social repression warps natural--that is, sexual--impulses (consider Lady Bracknell, whom Mary Beth Fisher portrays as more shrew than Gorgon). But Algernon and, to a lesser extent, Sean Allan Krill's overly mellow Jack seem merely fatigued by their posing: no submerged spontaneity threatens to slip out. The triumphs belong to more energetic performances, like Penny Slusher's delightfully dotty Miss Prism and Doug Peck's deft piano accompaniment. Through 12/26: Wed-Thu 7:30 PM, Fri 8 PM, Sat 3 and 8 PM, Sun 2:30 and 7:30 PM. Court Theatre, 5535 S. Ellis, 773-753-4472. $20-$50.

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