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Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2011

Boulevard Theatre Captures 'The Importance of Being Earnest'

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Oscar Wilde remains relevant and funny in the 21st century, as evidenced by the clever Milwaukee production of the 19th-century playwright's best-known comedy, The Importance of Being Earnest. It is currently playing at Boulevard Theatre. And play they do.

Artistic Director Mark Bucher, known for pushing boundaries, hits the mark with his modern-dress version of the comic sendup of Victorian manners and satirical comments about aristocratic society. Boulevard's eight-member ensemble serves Wilde's words well, especially the not-so-subtle jabs at that timeless institution called marriage (both young women insist on marrying a man named Ernest).

Despite the set's “naked wit” (rehearsal furniture for sets and actors wearing their own clothes) and the playwright's acerbic tone (plenty of tongue-in-cheek subtext), this much verbiage on a modern-day stage could lose an audience. But the Boulevard cast keeps it on track.

Kyle Queenan is a study in delicate balances as Algernon Moncrieff, the seemingly proper Victorian gentleman. Queenan gets Wilde's underlying meaning, deftly mocking his own persona while opening his heart to Cecily, the young ward of his friend Jack Worthing. As Jack, David Matthew Bohn plays nicely off Queenan's Algernon within their “frenemy” relationship as Jack swoons over Algernon's cousin Gwendolyn.

Tess Cinpinski shines as the energetic, determined Gwendolyn out to get her man, Jack. And Megan Kaminsky is the seemingly delicate counterpart to Gwendolyn, with her sweet, innocent yet calculating way of getting Algernon. David Ferrie as the comically befuddled Rev. Chasuble, Mary Buchel as Cecily's priggish but love-starved nanny and, in particular, Margaret Casey as the way too prim and proper Lady Bracknell excel in their roles, adding to the evening's entertainment, which includes a missing baby and a misplaced manuscript.

And where in the world is the eligible Ernest? That's part of the charmingly wicked delight in this Earnest.

The Importance of Being Earnest
runs through Dec. 3 at the Boulevard Ensemble Theatre, 2252 S. Kinnickinnic Ave. For more information, call 414-744-5757 or visit www.boulevardtheatre.com.