CONNECTICUT CRITICS CIRCLE
A Woman of No Importance

"A Woman of No Importance" at Yale Rep

Group Psychotherapy in New Haven
By Tom Nissley

Oscar Wilde - the intellectual freedom fighter who often skewed morals and manners in
Victorian England, was particularly fond of exposing hypocrisy and opening the psyche
in the process. "A Woman of no Importance," playing at Yale Rep through April 12, is a
marvelous example of his skill and wit.

At Hunstanton - a grand English Country House, a passel of guests is settling in. The
gossip about who's who and who's where and why so and so has not been accepted
socially and more quickly defines a superficial set of mores. Lady Caroline Pontefract
(Judith-Marie Bergan), in particular, knits compulsively and just as compulsively directs
her husband, Sir John (Anthony Newfield) to wear his rubbers, put on his scarf, sit close
to her and carry her basket - while chattering away to establish that in her own mind she
is the appropriate judge and jury of what's OK. A young banker, Gerald Arbuthnot (Bryce
Pinkham), has just been offered a position as private secretary to Lord Illingworth
(Geordie Johnson), a smarmy raconteur who exudes an irresponsible familiarity with the
collection of pleasure. When Gerald's mother, (Kate Forbes) visits from her nearby home
after dinner, she tries to put a stop to the new business arrangement. Meanwhile a
young American heiress (Erica Sullivan) also casts fond eyes on Gerald, but gives a
blunt denunciation of the English society she has encountered. Feelings are hurt and
some adjustment is needed. A surprise resolution satisfies the idealists, and deflates
key egos, as well.

The large cast, skillfully chosen and managed by director James Bundy, does a superb
job of delineating the atmosphere and connectivity called for in the script. Patricia
Kilgariff, as Lady Hunstanton, works perfectly as the forgetful hostess, calling often on
Ms. Bergan to be reminded of details. Terence Rigby, as the dottering Archdeacon
Daubeny, takes care of the comic discount Wilde offers for the clergy. Rene Augensen
plays the naughty provocateur, Mrs. Allonby, with ease. But the delight of the evening
comes when Johnson, as Illingworth, first gives lessons on life to Bryce Pinkham, as
Gerald. Johnson curls upon a dais, in an impossible dilatory position. Pinkham, on a
chair, struggles to adopt the same position. Johnson goes lower and looser. So does
Pinkham, in an exercise reminiscent of the King and Anna in"The King and I." A
wonderful moment of theatre! Both actors moved and changed positions admirably thru
the course of the performance. Emotionally, as much as physically. Pinkham, in
particular, is called upon to pledge allegiance to serial idols who rotate rapidly. Taking
first one deep breath, and then another, he moves with grace and does it!
The sets, formal and elegant, are grand. The costumes beautiful. The lighting and sound
excellent. Surely you're not surprised when I urge you to go, watch, listen to, and enjoy
"A Woman of No Importance."
tickets at www.yalerep.org or 203-432-1234

Tom Nissley for the Ridgelea Reports


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