Another Drawing Room Play at Taproot Theatre. Let’s Talk About It
Oscar Wilde, acclaimed playwright and poet, wrote A Woman of no Importance in 1892, as a satire of the Victorian upper class and as a social commentary on marriage and the roles of women. It was, however, the least successful of his plays, because of its lack of original subject matter and its occasionally unnecessary lengthiness. Yet there is value to find in all of Wilde’s plays, including a playfulness amongst social critique and themes that are still relevant to this day. With a stellar cast, stage, and music production, Karen Lund – producing artistic director at Taproot Theatre –attempts to bring about “a story that makes us both laugh and think”.
The first thing you’ll see upon entering Taproot Theatre is their striking scene of a Victorian drawing room, with a finish that appears to be made of real marble but which we know is due to a talented scenic designer team, led by Mark Lund. Throughout the play, the façade of the drawing room changes to fit different moments and different rooms. Additionally, the production uses real props, from water-filled cups to a real ink and quill set, all of which provide a sense of realism. Just as accurate are the costumes and hairstyles, each distinct and accurate Victorian style. Lastly, Mark Lund is also in charge of sound design and succeeds in providing clear and good-quality audio.
The play is filled with a cast of wonderful actors, each just as talented as the one before, whose acting range is fully showcased in each of their somewhat lengthy monologues. They’re expressive, eloquent, and sarcastic, and they all bring a good dynamic to the stage. The cast is comprised of Bretteney Beverly and Rebecca M. Davis as gossips Lady Caroline Pontefract and Lady Hunstanton, Tyler Campbell as Sir John Pontefract, Candance Vance and William Eames as mother-son duo Mrs. Arbuthnot and Gerald Arbuthnot, Juliette Jones as Hester Worsley, Aaron Lamb as despicable Lord Illingworth and others.
The story revolves mostly around Gerald, his mother, his love interest – Hester –, and his possible employer Lord Illingworth. While their relationships are explored, Lund’s production manages a nice balance between different opinions on marriage and gender roles as well as a nice contrast between the beginning and end of the play, in terms of the characters’ development and their roles in the story. Humor is one of the biggest things that liven the story and keeps the audience entertained during the more monotone moments. The characters speak with sarcasm and occasionally in such ridiculous ways, the audience can only laugh.
With such good elements in this production, it seems a shame that the biggest flaw is the story itself, which is dialogue-driven and too long at times. Most of the action is told in the form of gossip instead of shown and although this is the typical format of a drawing room play it seems a waste of modern storytelling techniques that would add movement and excitement to the play. The climax of the story also seems forced, as it relies on a revelation that wasn’t necessary. Gerald is extremely angry with Lord Illingworth and the only way Mrs. Arbuthnot thinks to calm him down is to reveal a secret she’s kept for almost two decades. A bit much if you ask me. This is all, admittedly, a fault in Wilde’s original script to which Lund adheres.
What this production could’ve done differently was to not give the antagonist of the story the last word in the fight and thus make his demise a bit more satisfying. Clarifying who the play was centered on earlier on would also be a helpful change to the story, considering a lot of the characters emphasized in Act 1 didn’t have much of an impact on the main arc.
To summarize, this production has all the elements for success, but I would’ve chosen to see them in a different play. Having said that, if you enjoy monologues and dialogue-driven stories with social commentary, humor, and a lot of drama, this might be the play for you. Otherwise, do keep an eye out for Taproot Theatre’s other productions, their team is worth watching.
A Woman of No Importance | Taproot Theatre, 204 N 85th St, Seattle | January 25 – March 4 (extended)
Get your tickets here: A Woman of No Importance : Taproot Theatre