The best thing about the Garfield Shakespeare Company’s production of The Importance of Being Ernest is David Santangelo’s wicked Cheshire-cat grin. Santangelo, as Algernon, captures author Oscar Wilde’s roguish appetite for gleefully scorning the frivolous structure of Victorian upper-class society.
The company members, under the direction of Chris Burton, embrace the farcical nature of the play, some better than others, but laughs are garnered at most of the appropriate places. Spencer Elliott is consistent as the foppish, flustering Jack Worthing, a foil to Algernon’s easygoing personality. The women, Kate Ghormley as Lady Bracknell, Ashley Chase Elliott as Gwendolen Fairfax, Bita Eisenhut as Cecily Cardew, and Christy Walker as Miss Prism, exhibit the expected affectations of ladies of the time.
Since the play is staged in the Garfield Park Arts Center’s gallery, set pieces are minimal but utilitarian, which unfortunately brings attention to the unflattering costumes for Lady Bracknell and Gwendolen Fairfax. While not strictly reflective of the period, the rest of the cast was better attired.
Tickets are free (though reservations are encouraged), making this a good opportunity to experience Wilde’s most popular play.