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Beauty, surprise and comedy abound at SAT

Performances of Oscar Wilde's play run through Oct. 5

“The Importance of Being Earnest” is not your everyday look into Victorian high society, and Sandy Actors Theatre brought it to life with beautiful scenery and wonderfully funny surprises.

On Saturday, Sept. 13, with the exception of a few dropped lines, Sandy Actors Theatre delivered a more than adequate interpretation of Oscar Wilde’s classic.Photo Credit: CONTRIBUTED PHOTO: ROSS MACKAE - The cast of SATs The Importance of Being Earnest: (back from right) Matthew Rathbun, Don Wright, Christopher Botcheos, Jim Lamproe, Anthony Ulibarri, (front from right) Olivia Welch, Jessie Russell, Berta Limbaugh and George Farquhar.

As usual, SAT did a wonderful job of creating a beautiful yet whimsical set to fit its small eclectic theater setting. The set, which was backdropped by a mural of Victorian flowers, used a screen with arbitrary looplike cutouts reminiscent of lace.

As audience members waited for the play to begin, looking at the beautifully dressed stage while listening to a piano playing created a subtle feeling of anticipation to prepare viewers to be transported to the past.

SAT kept up the charming use of sets throughout the play. Wilde did not make set changes easy for small troupes, drastically relocating his characters from a city to country setting part way through the first act.

Stage hands changed the set to depict the country atmosphere in character for the era of Wilde’s masterpiece. They acted like servants working throughout the households, so instead of leaving audience members bored and confused during a lengthy set change, they continued to engage onlookers.

The costumes, designed by Amy Kammerer and the play’s director Anita Sorel, were lovely and complemented the set design perfectly.

As a big fan of “The Importance of Being Earnest,” I enjoyed the production. SAT actors delivered Wilde’s witty and comical dialogue clearly.

However, I felt that the energy of the actors wasn’t as high in the first act as throughout the second. Although Wilde’s writing does become more engaging in Act II, the actors should take it upon themselves to be as engaging as possible throughout the entire play.

Along with the comic dialogue and blocking, SAT’s casting provided a playful surprise. Don Wright’s portrayal of stuck up, yet clever, Lady Bracknell was spot on.

I thoroughly enjoyed his gender-bending performance that added an extra level of whimsy to the play. And I applaud his adaption to the character’s wardrobe, including wig, floor-length Victorian gown and high heels.

Once again, I enjoyed Christopher Botcheos’ performance of Algernon Moncrieff. Algie’s character is one of my favorites, and I felt Botcheos did him justice. Botcheos employed just the right amount of arrogance, playfulness and clever wit needed for Wilde’s vital bachelor.

I also thought that Jessie Russell, as Cecily Cardew, and Olivia Welch, as Gwendolen Fairfax, interacted well as friends, enemies and, finally, as “sisters.”