A Man of No Importance: 4th Wall Theatre
Within a softly lit, somber 1960’s Dublin, the cast of A Man of No Importance set the stage with humor and humility. Paced to the brilliant music of Ahrens and Flaherty with a book by Terrance McNally, the events of A Man of No Importance surround the creation of a production of Solome within the confines of the local church theater, bringing societal prejudice to an explosive boil. As the play within the play collects it’s players, the center of the maelstrom, Alfie Byrne, exuberantly proclaims that his amateur troop, The St. Imelda’s Players, “had a grand time thinking we were bloody wonderful.” Not only did the 4th Wall production celebrate the work and spirit of Oscar Wilde in grand fashion, they were also more than bloody wonderful. The work was touching, sincere, grounded, and exuberant in equal doses.
As the charming, kind, warm-hearted protagonist, Alfie Byrne (Jan Topoleski) strives through his mundane position as the ticket collector on a Dublin bus with broad dreams of revitalizing the works of Oscar Wilde. Through his struggles to mount this beloved masterpiece, he encounters a mixture of self-discovery, betrayal, and true love that rocks the solidarity of his safe, mundane existence. Jan’s performance remained true to the reserved Alfie Byrne, painting the image of a tragic hero in simple, elegant strokes. Vocally compelling and quietly poignant, Jan easily carries the show through moments of comic brilliance to gripping, gut wrenching tragedy.
The serendipitous arrival of a beautiful woman on the course of the route sows the final seed for Alfie’s artistic machinations. Adele Rice, played by Maggie Joy Anderson, manages to maintain a holistic and pure veil, with only a hint of her guarded mystery simmering beneath the surface. Her expression betrays the ringing simplicity of her folksy soprano, and her friendly loyalty to Alfie only endears the audience to the young ingénue.
His closest mate and compatriot, Robbie Fay, portrayed by the ineffably complex Ian Michael Stuart, provides a youthful, vigorous foil to the complacent Alfie. Alfie intends to rope Robbie into the production of Solome as well, but is reluctant to pose the question. Instead, in an effort to free his friend from the invisible confines of his constricted life, Robbie drags his mentor and friend on an extended excursion through “The Streets of Dublin”. Ian’s effortless lilting vocals find definitive cohesion within the score, building to a virile, thrumming climax.
A slew of supporting characters assist in confounding Alfie’s creative ambitions. Notably, his sister Lily Byrne (Christine Orzepowski) and Mr. Carney (Will Lampe) willfully inhibit Alfie through their own concerns for propriety. Once Alfie invites Mr. Carney to perform, Carney bursts into “Going Up”, pontificating, “Let someone else provide the ham for the performance.” With flair and panache, Lampe delivers the ham, and every morsel is delectable. In addition, Jen Hanselman as Mrs. Curtin relishes every opportunity to take the smallest bit and send the entire audience into stitches.
While the cast bursts with copious amounts of talent, Kate Swan’s crisp direction sweeps the story from scene to scene without releasing the building tension. The attention to detail in both scene work and dialect were integral components to completing Alfie’s tumultuous yarn in a compelling, attractive, professional package. The strict musical direction (Marcus Hauck) was evident within the vast harmonious whole of the ensemble during hair raising choral numbers.
There is little that could not fit into this section. Multiple talented individuals shine within the production, specifically Jan Topoleski as Alfie Byrne, Ian Michael Stuart as Robbie Fay, and Jen Hanselman as Mrs. Curtin. The entire show is impeccably cast and the music crisply executed. The production values, while demure, highlight and further the plot while maintaining seamless changes from scene to scene.
Make certain to arrive early to the show in order to obtain the best seat available on the house right section of the theater. The stationing of the band on house left interferes with the comprehension of the thick dialect, especially in the first act.
Without doubt, the 4th Wall mounting of A Man of No Importance should not be missed.