We move from Algernon’s drawing room to the garden at Jack’s manor where his ward, the lovely Cecily, played with particular petulance by Charlotte Parry, is studying with her tutor, Miss Prism. The punctilious Miss Prism is perfectly played by theatre doyenne, Dana Ivey. As her quasi-paramour, the Reverend Canon Chasuble, Paxton Whitehead is a perfect fit for the celibate, yet randy reverend. As the reverend takes Miss Prism for a brief walk, enter Algernon declaring himself to be Jack’s ne'er-do-well brother Earnest . Cecily is immediately smitten by this alleged Victorian bad-boy and soon the two are engaged to be married. Exit “Earnest” and enter Gwendolen. Cecily and Gwendolen engage in a superficial, two-cheek-kissing, tête à tête that is sickeningly saccharin until they discover that they both appear to be engaged to the same man, Earnest. The scene that follows is worthy of Alexis and Krystal Kerrington. You expect the two to be rolling around on the floor tearing each other to bits as they each pull out their diaries to prove that Earnest did indeed propose to them, but they remain in control through gritted teeth.
Jack returns dressed in mourning garb declaring that his brother Earnest has passed. This comes as a bit of a shock to those who have just witnessed his brother Earnest’s arrival in the form of Algernon. Ultimately all the confusion is cleared up and a long-held family secret is revealed that clears up Jack’s claim of being found in a hand-bag in Victoria station. As for his intentions of marrying Gwendolen, Lady Bracknell is intent on putting the kibosh on that. That is until she is informed of the dowry that comes with marrying the young Cecily, a princely sum of one hundred and thirty thousand pounds. The only problem is, Jack won’t give his permission for his ward to marry Algernon unless Lady Bracknell gives her permission for him to marry Gwendolen. And, as if you need to be told this, they all live happily-ever-after.
The production is beautifully designed (sets and costumes) by Desmond Heeley. Mr. Heeley won Tony Awards for Best Costumes and Best Sets in 1968 for Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead. I believe that he is the only designer to have ever won a Tony for both sets and costumes for the same play. Despite an eye-sore of a vase in the first act (it was huge, check out the photos below), Heeley has created two gorgeous interiors and one garden setting. His Victorian costumes are the cherry on the sundae of his set.
In the wrong hands Wilde’s epigrams could land with a thud. Thankfully that isn’t the case with this production. The cast and its director have seen to that. There is not a weak link in the lot. Bedford’s performance as Bracknell is sure to be a strong contender in June. I’m so pleased that Roundabout has resoundingly redeemed themselves after last falls lack-luster production of Mrs. Warren’s Profession.