The Importance of Being Earnest, Simple Theater, at the Vittum Theater. Audiences might wonder at first if they've stumbled into a Wodehouse play: deco furniture and early jazz scarcely conjure up the fin de siecle setting of Oscar Wilde's comedy. But because the British upper classes emerged from the First World War with their faith in protocol intact, this satire seems as appropriate to 1920 as to 1895. Directors Laura Forbes and Corina Nusu have dispensed with post-Victorian clutter in favor of a more modern ambience that offers the actors greater opportunity for physical comedy--a measure also rendered desirable by the Vittum Theater's helipad-sized stage. The result is a more vigorous than usual interpretation of the classic farce, but this giddily exuberant production never slights Wilde's wry, eloquent commentary.
Keith Thackston's Jack and Emilia Carlson's Gwendolen are appropriately sweet and silly, and the lanky J. Edward Hoyt and diminutive Nancy Friedrich make Algernon and Cecily a suitably screwball sidekick-and-soubrette duo; Jen L. Hines and Nathan Helsabeck as Miss Prism and Dr. Chasuble contribute likewise broad but inventive characterizations. Stealing the show, however, is Anna Rosselli as Lady Bracknell, a pint-size iron lady whose very hats command our attention and whose icy stare could rout the most stalwart of social reformers.