CSUF Theater Review: ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’ delightfully revisits Oscar Wilde’s classic

In Arts & Entertainment, Lifestyle, Theater & Arts
Leo Torrez and Caleb Gibson standing next to each other smiling for 'The Importance of Being Earnest' by CSUF

CSUF’s “The Importance of Being Earnest” lets audiences indulge in Oscar Wilde’s classic, serving up sunny melodrama and mishaps, properly on the side of cucumber sandwiches and refreshing cups of tea.

The production is a satisfying rendition, though safely frolics in its already witty source material. It’s nothing groundbreaking, especially for those familiar with the play, but stands to be an enjoyable comedy worth either revisiting or discovering for the first time.

Young Theatre is transformed by the luxurious decor of 1913 England with pristine white walls and pastel florals to match the sophisticated whimsy of the play. Despite the play being around for over 100 years, Wilde’s light wisecracks and quirky wisdoms delightfully shine through as the production made little alterations to the original play.

Miscommunications lead to less than earnest circumstances in the British comedy as Jack (Caleb Gibson) and Algie (Leo Xavier Torrez) are faced with confronting their perpetual lies.

When Jack musters the courage to propose to the love of his life, the elegant Gwendolen (Isobel Beaman), he has one slight predicament: she absolutely adores that his name is Earnest. (Hint: It’s not.)

“It is a divine name. It has a music of its own. It produces vibrations,” Gwendolen said.

Algie gets himself in similar trouble by avoiding undesirable occasions, blaming his absence on his fictional friend Mr. Bunbury. With another use of this excuse, Algie escapes to Jack’s home in the country to play as Jack’s fictional brother in the country (also named Earnest). This eventually leads to mix-ups when Gwendolen pays a visit, looking for an Earnest and finding two.

Each actor earns their laughter from the audience with likable interpretations of their characters. Jack and Algie create some organically funny moments together with their banter that challenges each other’s polar opposite personalities. Their better halves, Gwendolen and Cecily (Megan Hill), steal the show in their scenes together while wrestling with comedic tension caused by the men’s absurdity.

Hill especially brings a charming performance as the ward of Jack, who Algie adores. She openly satirizes the silly concepts often found within the lovestruck teenage mind, with her playful stubbornness and dreamy scribbles in her journal.

Jack and Algie hide behind the stature of being Earnest instead of exposing their true selves in foolish fear of losing the women they love solely because of their names. This seems to poke fun at the superficial fears that can surface in a relationship but look a lot more like hilarious and foolish runarounds when given an audience.

The set design is one of the most beautiful to recently grace the Young Theatre, with close attention to detail and location changes for each of the three acts, including magnificent centerpiece paintings that switch after each act. The production is a little under two hours and 30 minutes and is paced well with two intermissions.

The play is pretty predictable, even for someone who hasn’t seen the show before, but it is a fun watch nonetheless.

“The Importance of Being Earnest” ends CSUF’s strong season with a comfortable and light theater classic to escape to until May 6, with tickets at $14 and $12 for students.

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