Vritual Theater Earns Its Spurs With Sklight’s Delightful “Earnest”

Many theater companies have tried too cope with the pandemic by creating theater virtually.

And I must confess that I’ve avoided all of it, mainly because I so relish a night in a real theater with a real stage and real lights and real music and real actors and real seats and real cookies at intermissions. 

Boy, what I’ve been missing.

I put a tentative toe into the virtual theater water with “Being Earnest,” produced by Skyllight Music Theater. 

I should have known that when creative people put their talents to work in new and untried ways they would triumph over all the boulders and barriers in their way.

This production of a piquant take on the classic Oscar Wilde play is so much fun, so very real and so smart that the 100 minutes flew by and – unlike a real night in the theater – I immediately watched the whole thing again. 

Directed by Michael Unger, the Artistic Director at Skylight, the show featurs a cast of seven and some of the most delightful and clever songs you’ve ever heard.

It was about eight years ago that this production, with book by Paul Gordon and music by Mr. Gordon and Jay Gruska, had its premiere. It was designed as a production of the 1960’s, set in London’s Carnaby Street, a bastion of off beat culture that featured distinctive styles in clothing, music and morals.

For those of us in the United States, this production from Sklylight resembles nothing so much as the pioneering television show “Laugh-In.”

The performance is conducted in a socially distanced manner, with characters appearing in boxes that move around the screen, change colors, morph into other boxes, switch characters, show still pictures and dance – as the saying goes – like no one is watching.

Everybody knows the story of the play by Mr. Wilde. It’s about two young couples in love, complete with misplaced identities, conventions of high society and an overbearing mother, Lady Bracknell, one of the most memorable characters in the history of modern theater.

Mr. Unger has taken this cast of all local performers and turned each one into a finely-drawn character pulling the strings of our hearts as each tickles our souls. 

The dynamic duo of Max Pink and Joey Chelius are the young men while Stephanie Stazak and Ashley Oveido are the two young women caught up in the wild affair. 

They are joined “onstage’ by Nathan Marinan who plays Lady Bracknell with a gusto that shocks,the laways delightful Karen Estrada as the prim and not always proper Miss Prism and the versatile Tim Rebers as three distinct characters. 

A special mention has to be made of Tyler Milliron who gets billing as video consultant. I’m not sure what that is, but the video work putting this whole thing together is amazing. It moves along at a perfect pace, quickly enough to move the story along but patiently enough so that we can savor each moment on the screen. 

I also have to say something about Mr. Pink, the Shorewood High School graduate who is recently returned to Milwaukee from theRoyal Conversavatoire in Scotland. He is the son of Michael Pink, Artistic Director of the Milwaukee Ballet, and his wife, Jane. Max Pink is a remarkably handsome young man, taking after his stunning mother, and very talented, taking after his brilliant father. 

I am thrilled that I finally caved in to move to the virtual theater and now intend to travel the breadth of Milwaukee’s creative community, enjoying each and every moment.

Production Credits:  Director, Michael Unger; Music Director, Conor Keelan; Choreographe,  Amanda Marquardt; Costume Coordinator,  Shima Orans;

Video Consultant,  Tyler Milliron; Stage Manager,  Samantha Pekelnicky.

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