A classic English comedy of manners and mistaken identity, Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest is subtitled, “A Trivial Comedy for Serious People.” It was first performed in 1895 and remains his most popular play. With witty dialogue and clever plot twists, it is pure farce and turns a satirical eye to Victorian ways.
Circle Bar B’s current production, directed by Miller James, hits all the right notes. Joshua Danyel, as Algernon, bursts into the first act crackling with energy. The character is brash, sure of himself and even a little snooty, but Danyel portrays him in a surprisingly good-natured way.
In seeming contrast, Richard Lonsbery as Jack (aka Earnest) first appears rather low-key, even languid. However, as the action progresses, we see that his energy is on a slow burn and builds to some wonderfully climactic moments.
Note: The scene change within Act II is well worth the price of admission, as he gets a chance to show off his considerable chops as a hoofer.
As the lady loves of these gentlemen, both Jennifer Marco and Katherine Bottoms do a fine job. Marco is the composed and proper Gwendolyn, but like Lonsbery as her Earnest, she takes her time in revealing the character’s subtler layers. Bottoms is the idealistic and spontaneous Cecily, who falls for Algernon, and her energy matches Danyel’s beautifully, as she seems to glow from inside.
Lit from within as well, but with a sort of menacing gleam, is Jenna Scanlon as Gwendolyn’s mother, Lady Bracknell. The paragon of the English society matron with an agenda, she somehow manages to be both curt and long-winded at the same time, and is scintillatingly scary.
As the prim yet not heartless Miss Prism, co-producer Susie Couch is charming, and her chemistry with husband and co-producer David Couch, who is solid as the sweet-natured (and sweet on Miss Prism) Reverend Chasuble, is adorable.
Allan Stewart-Oaten and Cathryn Betz round out the cast as faithful servants, with Betz also ushering and selling refreshments at intermission.
Circle Bar B Dinner Theatre is truly a family affair, with everyone pitching in. And with the delicious barbecue dinner preceding the show, it’s a wonderful way to spend a summer evening, just a 30-minute drive up the coast in what feels like another world.
Be sure to check out this delightful production in its final three weekends, through July 14. Click here for more information.
— Justine Sutton is a Santa Barbara freelance writer and frequent Noozhawk reviewer. The opinions expressed are her own.