Front Row Reviewers

“The Importance of Being Earnest” at the Parker Theatre in Salt Lake City is a Timeless Triumph

Front Row Reviewers

Front Row Reviewers

By Tanner Tate

Last Thursday, I had the privilege of attending a preview for the Parker Theatre’s production of The Importance of Being Earnest in Salt Lake City. The Importance of Being Earnest was written by Oscar Wilde and first performed in 1895 as his penultimate written work. I grew up attending the Parker Theatre through its various locations and iterations, and I always feel an air of reminiscent nostalgia when I attend their plays today. Through the last few years, I’ve been lucky enough to witness their productions of Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet, and most recently, their triumphant and deeply moving Of Mice and Men. Today, I am lucky enough to write a review for them.

Neither the Oscar Wilde nor the Parker Theatre are strangers to comedy, and it shows in this excellent three-act production, which boasts a terrific and tight-knit cast led by Chris Last as the clever countryman Jack Worthing and Jonathan McBride as the flamboyant and loveable Algernon Blackwood. Both actors create distinct individuals within their characters, owing to an obvious textual study of the work itself, and such focus lends an air of ease to the complicated dialogue that easily rolls through the characters that Wilde has used as the conduits for his story.

Presently, the story introduces the dueling love interests, both in love with a man they call Earnest; a man who seems to be both dead and alive while also everywhere and nowhere at once. First, we are interested to Jack’s one true love, the beautiful Gwendolyn Fairfax, played elegantly and hilariously by Kristi Curtis. Curtis demonstrates a developed understanding of Wilde’s humor, present in her impeccable comedic timing in both physical and verbal comedy. In Act II, the focus shifts to Algernon’s love interest: the quirky and starry-eyed ward of his counterpart, Cecily Cardew, portrayed with both poise and wit by Kristin Hafen. Curtis and Hafen carry the play with their respective characters’ intentions and goals being both entirely at odds while simultaneously symbiotic: a trope common in 19th Century theatre but executed flawlessly in the Parker Theatre’s production. When Curtis brings a fierce air to Gwendolyn, and it is juxtaposed with the unfettered and playful air brought to Cecily by Hafen, the results are positively charming. To bring an additional player into the mix, Wilde introduces the imposing yet somewhat oblivious Lady Bracknell, played by Linda Jean Stephenson. Stephenson also demonstrates her study of the text with crisp delivery of laugh-out-loud lines, and a mature air of authority to a raucous room littered with twitterpated young adults.

Also joining the cast are Miss Prism, the rigid governess with a secret crush on a priest, played by Jayne Luke; the Reverend Dr. Canon Chausible, a bumbling priest with a secret crush on a certain rigid governess, played by Scott Palmer; the respective butlers for both the Blackwood and Worthing households, Lane and Moulton, both played with just the right pinch of comedy by John-Tyrus Williams; and to top it all off, an elderly nameless and voiceless maid that drove some of the most uproarious laughter, a cameo performance by director Mary Parker Williams.

Williams’ direction is lovely and pointed, keeping her stage balanced and her actors and audiences engaged, whether it’s competing over a tin of brownies or playing a chess game to simulate a rivalry. Accompanying the direction is excellent stage and lighting design, completed by Parker Theatre’s Executive Director James Parker. The Parker Theatre has long boasted some of the most creative and eye-catching sets in Salt Lake County, and The Importance of Being Earnest continues that tradition, with ornate interior scenery and period-appropriate furnishings. Alongside these is sound designer and resident artist at the Parker Spencer Hohl, who has earned one of the highest compliments to any sound designer for the stage: I hardly noticed his work at all.

Rebecca Fenton deserves a certain applause for her costuming of the show, giving each of the characters their own flair, whether it’s the color scheme present when the two leading women enter into a battle of wits; the obvious dress discrepancies between the collected Jack Worthing and the eccentric Algernon Blackwood; or the foreboding presence of Lady Bracknell, whose extravagant apparel commands all eyes upon her entrance. Fenton has costumed before at the Parker, and they are correct to continue bringing her back.

The Importance of Being Earnest at the Parker Theatre in Salt Lake City is a trip into turn-of-the-century comedy full of misdirection, misunderstanding, and misuse of parlor food clearly meant for the guests. I laughed, and you will laugh. Buy tickets quickly before word gets out and they disappear.

Parker Theatre presents The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde.
Parker Theatre, 3605 South State Street, South Salt Lake, UT 84115
May 18-June 22, 2024 Fridays and Saturdays @ 7:30 PM, Saturday Matinee @ 3:30
$18 Youth, $27 Adult
Contact: 801-523-6000,
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The Importance of Being Earnest promo video

Front Row Reviewers

Front Row Reviewers


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