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'The Importance of Being Earnest’: Classic theater performed at its best

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The appreciation for literature and the classics are all but died in modern society. The Classical Theatre Company in Houston performs to combat such statements. Although not many people would see spending a Friday or Saturday night watching a classic theater production as appealing, seeing the company's latest "The Importance of Being Earnest" just might change their minds.

A brief history on the Classical Theatre Company (CTC), like my first statement above, it is how this theater came into life. John Johnston, the founder and Executive Artistic Director of CTC, created this theater to fill the need for classical theater in the Houston area. He finally made year-around classical theatre a possibility for Houston with the theaters opening season in 2008. The theater has since had continued success with each new season gaining more audience attention.

The current production is the last and most famous of Oscar Wilde's plays, which is a story many audiences will already be familiar with, due to its popularity. It tells the story of Jack Worthing (Johnston), a highly respectable member of the community in Hertfordshire where he is the guardian of Cecily Cardew (Julia Traber). Cecily is a beautiful eighteen year old, who was the granddaughter of late Thomas Cardew, who was the one who found Jack, who had been abandoned, when he was a baby. To get away into the city, Jack uses the guise of a long lost, detestable brother Ernest to see best friend Algernon Moncrieff (Matthew Keenan) and Algernon's cousin and Jack's (Ernest) love, Gwendolen Fairfax (Lindsay Ehrhardt).

As the play begins unbeknownst to Ernest, Algernon has discovered his lost cigarette case which conceals his true identity of Jack and his ward, Cecily. Algernon seems almost pleased with the discovery calling such people who lead double lives as "Bunburyist,” due to his own chronically ill nonexistent friend named Bunbury. The play unfolds as secrets are revealed and pleasures of the heart exposed. Algernon uses this knowledge about this mysterious, young ward and his friend Jack being a bunburyist, to gain entrance into Jack’s estate. Algernon and Jack seem victims to their own hearts and create hilarious obstacles in pursuit of the thing they want, love.

The entire cast more than delights in their performances. Johnston and Keenan shine as these two charming yet mischievous leading men. Johnston appears to possess a skill far exceeding his years with amazing comic typing, flawless delivery and an overall outstanding performance. Keenan performance is impeccable and performs with such ease as his character, who seems to understand that life need not be taken so seriously. In the first act, we get to see the interaction of the two leading men as the focal point. As we are greater introduced to our leading ladies, we get to see just how different their stage dynamics are.

The two leading men do not outshine their female love interest, Ehrhardt and Traber, who both grab the audience’s heart. Ehrhardt performance as the sophisticated, lovely and love sure Gwendolen, is greatly complimented by that of Traber who portrays a more innocent, sweet, yet mischievous Cecily. The contrast of these two female leads creates just the right recipe for comedy and laughs, when they are executed as skillfully as done by them and the entire cast.

“The Importance of Being Earnest” is still a play studied and performed throughout the world. It holds clever, witty verbal snaps that still ring true today on the topic of life, love and the ability to escape responsibility. Although most people wouldn’t engage in such shady or mischievous behavior as creating a fake relative or friend, there are many who would agree it would be helpful or ideal should they be able to get away with it. Such productions and performances of classical theater will continue to be treasured and celebrated because such productions remind us just how relevant and beautiful the past arts still are to us today.

“The Importance of Being Earnest” runs through April 27, so be sure not to miss your opportunity to see this production before last curtain call. For ticket information, visit their website at http://classicaltheatre.org/tickets or contact them by phone at 713-963-9665. Tickets can be purchased at the door as well for performances. Be sure to browse their site for social media connections and other information about past and upcoming productions.

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