Hale Centre Theatre
Josh Richardson, Linda Jean Stephenson and Eden Benson in Hale Centre Theatre's production of "The Importance of Being Earnest."

"THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST," through Feb. 6, Hale Center Theatre (801-984-9000); running time: 2 hours (one intermission)

WEST VALLEY CITY — What's in a name? According to Shakespeare, a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.

But don't tell that to the ladies in Oscar Wilde's 1895 beloved comedy "The Importance of Being Earnest." They both have their hearts set on falling in love with a man named Ernest.

With two men, close friends both going by the name of Ernest, and two ladies wanting a man by that very name, it's easy to see how things get confusing — and funny.

Tamara Adams directs a solid production of the classic, which opens Hale's 2010 season. The good thing about shows like this is, typically, as the cast settles into the run, they discover more comedic moment and the show gets funnier.

One general note: That process will be helped if the actors slow the delivery of their lines and lower the pitch of their voices. A funny thing happens when actors use British accents — they tend to talk fast and high — which makes it more difficult to decipher the lines. And Wilde has written some brilliant ones in this show.

The two Ernests in question are played by Hale regulars Justin Bruse (double cast with Josh Richardson) and Greg Barnett (Paul Cartwright).

The men do a nice job of the back-and-forth, play nicely off one another and are rather charming.

Their love interests, played by newcomer Kylee Bird (Eden Benson) and regular Rachel Lynn Woodward (Becca Ingram), are wonderfully fetching and coy. The scene the two women share is one of the better of the evening.

The rest of the cast turns in enjoyable performances, and Adams does a nice job of keeping them moving around Hale's small arena stage.

I was disappointed with Jolene Ashcraft's costumes, as in Act 2 everyone is all in one color — different hues of beige. The most colorful things on stage are the tablecloths. Which is too bad since the designs are lovely, it's just difficult to spot any detail.

All in all, the first show of the 2010 season is a good one and ought to get better as the run progresses.

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