Oscar Wilde Still Going Strong at the NAC

Alex McCooeye, Christopher Morris. Photo by Andree Lanthier

He may be one hundred and sixty years old, but there is no question Oscar Wilde still has what it takes to please a crowd. Even when it’s done badly, you love it. Thankfully, The Importance of Being Earnest, the season opener for the National Arts Centre (NAC), does not fall into this category. Overall, the acting, set and costumes are what you would expect from an Oscar Wilde production. There is no doubt he is smiling down, laughing at his own genius, with a stiff drink in his hand.

Natasha Greenblatt, Alex McCooeye. Photo by Andree Lanthier

There is all sorts of scholarly banter about the meaning of Earnest, how it is a witty, critique of the shallowness and hypocrisy of society of the day. Luckily you can just sit back and enjoy the ridiculousness of a twisty plot with hilarious surprises without having to analyze it to death. The characters are delightfully repugnant, each in his/her own way, and the dialogue is incredibly clever and biting, as only Wilde could produce.

The chemistry among the cast members is fantastic. It will be great to see how they develop as a team in the coming season as the NAC Ensemble. However, in this production, it is specifically Alex McCooeye’s Algernon who steals the show. McCooeye perfectly captures the essence, decadence and trivial nature of his character. Natasha Greenblatt’s Cecily is also fabulous. Christian Morris’s Jack, is at times, unnecessarily loud and dramatic, but he still puts on a good show. It’s great to see Andrew Moodie on stage at home in Ottawa as Rev. Chasuble and David Warburton’s performance as Merriman (Jack’s servant) is also particularly funny. Kudos also go to Lois Anderson for getting the balance right in terms of the geeky yet lusty Miss Prism, Cecily’s tutor.

Christopher Morris, Amy Matysio. Photo by Andree Lanthier
Christopher Morris, Amy Matysio. Photo by Andree Lanthier

Lose yourself in Wilde’s ingenious use of language in The Importance of Being Earnest. Kick back for the evening (it’s a long play, but you won’t notice) and just take in a great production with a fab cast. There are even two intermissions providing you ample opportunity to toast Oscar’s 160th yourself, if you so choose!

The Importance of Being Earnest runs until November 8 at the NAC.

Talkback with the 2014-2015 Ensemble

Wednesdays, October 29 and November 5, and Thursdays, October 30 and November 6.
Stay in your seats for a post-show question-and-answer session with members of the 2014-15 Ensemble.