Carroll University's summer rep series stages 2 worthy shows

By JULIE McHALE - TimeOut Theater Critic

June 12, 2014

WAUKESHA - Carroll University launched a Summer Repertory Series with a pair of delightful plays, one by the mysterious playwright who hides behind the pen name of Jane Martin, and the other by the famous Oscar Wilde. 

“Anton in Show Business” and “The Importance of Being Earnest” are being presented for two more weekends at the Otteson Theatre on Carroll’s campus. They are both deserving of a large audience.

“Anton” gives us the inside story on the theater business - the motives of actors and directors, the cost of production, the reliance on grants or sponsors, the unappreciative audiences, the caustic critics, the precariousness of trying to make a living in this business, and on and on it goes. There’s enough humor to go around, but there are also poignant moments, especially in the final scene of Chekhov’s “The Three Sisters” and the monolog at the end as one of the actors speaks to the audience. Laura Gray, Ami Majeskie and Carly Sauer are very convincing in their roles as the three chosen actors. Abbi Hess and Sara Lessmann are also impressive as they switch from one role to another. All the male roles are played by women.

Professor Jennifer Dobby directed the shows, and Laura Gray, one of the actors, is also on staff, but all other production jobs were handled by students. This show should be offered more often.  It’s a winner.  

“The Importance of Being Earnest” is the second play in this summer series. Oscar Wilde’s most popular play has been produced to death, but somehow it continues to attract contemporary audiences. This comedy is a challenge for amateur actors because it requires a British accent, subtle wit, good pacing, and like all comedies of manners, it is more about talk than action, so that talk better keep us listening.  

Wilde with his satiric sword takes swipes at marriage, aristocratic society, hypocrisy and the ineffectiveness of education; also the pettiness and self-indulgence of many of the characters who represent the imperfections of  humankind. All of the characters are very distinctive, even the butlers and the wimpy minister.  

Outstanding in the cast are Gray as the inimitable Lady Bracknell in all her intimidating splendor, Ryan Albrechtson as the bumbling but lovable Jack Worthing, and the two enticing ingˇnues, Gwendolyn and Cecily, spicily rendered by Katelynne Rosera and Alexis Furseth, respectively. Their sparring scene is priceless. Taylor Burzynski as the dual butlers also gets his share of laughs in his cameo roles.  

It was a bit hard to hear Sam Sherman’s Algernon at times, but he certainly looked the part. Bryan LaPaz as the Rev. Chasuble also needs a bit more volume. Aubrey Kolbeck as Miss Prism took advantage of her embarrassing revelation scene nicely.  

All in all, it is a worthy production of this timeless classic.

The whole effort expended in this repertory series is admirable. I hope it’s the beginning of a long tradition of quality summer  theater.