The Importance of Being Earnest

At Mary Moody Northen Theatre, Oscar Wilde's comedy is not only wonderfully expressed but played with remarkable accuracy

Freshly grilled suitor: Barbara Chisholm's Lady Bracknell interrogates her daughter's intended, Mr. Worthing (Jon Richardson).
Freshly grilled suitor: Barbara Chisholm's Lady Bracknell interrogates her daughter's intended, Mr. Worthing (Jon Richardson). (Photo courtesy of Bret Brookshire)

The Importance of Being Earnest

Mary Moody Northen Theatre, 3001 S. Congress, 448-8484
Through April 21
Running time: 2 hr., 10 min.

If the current Mary Moody Northen Theatre production of The Importance of Being Earnest is any indication, Richard Robichaux is a master conductor. Yes, I grant you, this term is typically reserved for those with coattails and batons. But Oscar Wilde's scherzo of a text is molded here with such finesse as to prove Robichaux's consummate musicianship – so much so that I couldn't help but feel as though I were attending an evening at the symphony.

And for good reason. Wilde's late 19th century play frolics through high society with an inherent lyricism. Just as composers use markings to communicate to musicians how to play their notes, Wilde does for his actors – often with a great degree of subtlety and subtext. Robichaux makes the most of every nuance in this fresh production of the classic comedy, and his ensemble – overflowing with extraordinary talent – follows suit. Jon Richardson and Josean Rodriguez (as Jack and Algernon, respectively) bound with youthful energy as they orchestrate their mischievous schemes, and Gwendolen and Cecily – the objects of their desires – are rendered with just the right Victorian overtones by Hannah Marie Fonder and Sophia Franzella. As usual, MMNT has rounded up a smashing handful of Austin theatre's finest as Equity Guest Artists, including Irene White as the mysterious Ms. Prism and Chronicle Arts Editor Robert Faires as her cheery Chasuble. But it is Barbara Chisholm as Lady Bracknell who racks up the most rolling-in-the-aisles points as she drolly and severely delivers some of Wilde's best bits of dialogue.

The design elements of MMNT shows often receive praise, and it's again easy to see why. Ia Ensterä's stark white, highly architectural set is yet another winner in the designer's impressive oeuvre, and the splashes of bright color with which it is adorned throughout serve as a visual analog of the production's freshness. Stephen Pruitt's lighting skillfully brings out the riches in T'Cie Mancuso's exquisite costumes. Similar to an orchestra's wide spectrum of available tone colors, the design work here sparkles and glistens in counterpoint to the melodious quality of the play's direction and execution.

The experience of attending such a well-made production of a well-made play felt all the more fulfilling on Saturday night thanks to the packed house. It's rare to encounter a full house in Austin theatre, and this one included some of the most highly regarded theatre professionals in this market, to boot. It was truly a lively, rousing experience shared communally.

Of his pianistic rendition near the top of the play, Algernon remarks, "I don't play accurately – anyone can play accurately – but I play with wonderful expression." Not only is this production of Earnest wonderfully expressed, but it is played with a remarkable accuracy not to be missed.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More Austin theatre
Valoneecia Tolbert Geeks Out in <i>Tales of a Blerd Ballerina</i>
Valoneecia Tolbert Geeks Out in Tales of a Blerd Ballerina
The actress looks back at what it was to be young, geeky, and Black

Robert Faires, April 9, 2021

Examining the Sins and Virtues of Hypermasculine Theatre
Examining the Sins and Virtues of Hypermasculine Theatre
When is violence in theatre too much?

Shanon Weaver, Dec. 9, 2016

More Arts Reviews
Review: Broadway in Austin’s <i>My Fair Lady</i>
Review: Broadway in Austin’s My Fair Lady
Still bright, brassy, and enchanting, this production of the sharp-tongued classic musical still needs to fix its modern ending

Richard Whittaker, Dec. 8, 2023

Review: “The Dog Show”
Review: “The Dog Show”
Hiromi Stringer curates a fictitious, dog-obsessed museum in her current solo show

Meher Qazilbash, Dec. 8, 2023

More by Adam Roberts
<i>When the Rain Stops Falling</i>
When the Rain Stops Falling
Strong writing and a robust cast make Different Stages' production stay with you

July 10, 2015

<i>The Sorcerer</i>
The Sorcerer
The Gilbert & Sullivan Society's latest show may be lesser known, but it still prompts plenty of smiles

June 26, 2015


The Importance of Being Earnest, Austin theatre, Mary Moody Northen Theatre, Richard Robichaux, Barbara Chisholm, Irene White, Robert Faires, Ia Enstera, Stephen Pruitt, T'Cie Mancuso, Josean Rodriguez, Jon Richardson, Hannah Marie Fonder, Sophia Franzella

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Keep up with happenings around town

Kevin Curtin's bimonthly cannabis musings

Austin's queerest news and events

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle