Saturday, June 30, 2018

Steel Beam Theatre Offers an Imaginative Take on Wilde

By Richard Pahl

Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest, A Trivial Comedy for Serious People, was first performed in London in 1895 and has been continually produced for 123 years. Many revivals in the first decades of the 20th century treated its setting, “the present”, as the current year. It was not until the 1920s that the tradition of 1890s costumes was established. Thus it is not a stretch that Steel Beam Theatre has chosen to take a step back and set its streamlined revisal in the Sixties. They have subtitled this reimagining as A Trivial Comedy for Groovy People.

When the curtains open, the audience encounters psychedelic music, dayglo colors, flared pants and brilliant eye shadow. Humorous dance sequences created by Jennifer Reeves-Wilson set the scenes and amp up the laughs. Clever costumes chosen by Marge Uhlarik-Boller feature bright colors, bold silhouettes and whimsical details. Director Sean Hargadon peppers the performance with amusing stage business and supervises the entire affair with an appropriate sense of silliness.

Wilde is famous for his dialogue and use of language. This oft-quoted play is full of epigrams, paradoxes, witticisms, quips, bons-mots, epigrams and repartee. It is satirical and farcical. Steel Beam's top notch cast skillfully handles the sophisticated, rapid fire language. In this production lovers of the English language will be overjoyed to find that the text is beautifully articulated .

The performances are strong throughout. Richard Isemonger is the fashionable, posturing, often manic but always entertaining Algernon. Sumeet Chhabra appears as two unflappable manservants. Josh Radde is the suave but often anxious Jack. Julie Bayer as strong-willed Gwendolen seems to be a match for her formidable mother. In one of the most famous roles in English dramatic literature, Sarafina Vecchio takes a distinctive turn as Lady Bracknell. Maddy Kelly is the youthful but determined Cecily. Diminutive Jean Austin is a flirtatious spinster governess and is hilariously paired with the hulking Scott Purdy as scholarly Dr. Chasuble.

Kudos to Steel Beam for its fresh, imaginative take on a comedy classic.

Tickets are available at

Richard Pahl is an actor, director, and writer, who has worked in professional, community, and college theater for close to 40 years. He has traveled the country plying his trade at various regional theaters. He was the creator of both Playwrights' Advocate and Page To Stage - incubators for new play production, where local and regional plays were commissioned and simply staged in front of live audiences, providing critical feedback for the playwrights. Pahl also served proudly on the Elgin Cultural Arts Commission from 2007-2014.