From the helicopter rushing above Georgetown it would be a fleeting glance at a blanket tapestry covering the back lawn of Dumbarton House, NSCDA Museum & Headquarters on Q Street. The blades don’t bring any breeze, that’s already active on a perfectly humid and gently overcast June evening, but their thumping does elicit a tactful mid-conversation pause, then inquiry, from late-19th century Cecily Cardew, “what is that dreadful noise!?” How dare the DoD disturb the elaborately-dressed and romantically perplexed DC professionals transporting a sold-out audience in the production of “The Importance of Being Earnest!” Cardew, played by Daniela Kelley McInerney, is trying to figure out if her betrothed is already committed to Gwendolen. While McInerney’s day-job at WeddingWire in Friendship Heights could be relevant, her portrayal of Cecily doesn’t let on that we are in fact watching a group of seasoned DC professionals share their joyful passion for casual, and very real, dramatic arts. They are The Picnic Theatre Company.
The set, the backdrop of a Georgetown manor, is the perfect median between town and country; so no need for prop adjustments between Oscar Wilde’s two acts. The Washingtonian audience already has the “work to play” transition ingrained in their heads, and the brief interlude allows them to return to their self-provisioned cheese platters and supply of evening cocktails. The cast knows their stage and the balace between surprise and subtle egress that Dumbarton’s backyard offers. The only show this month that still has tickets is in the Dupont Underground –a venue that will likely challenge the aesthetic of the play but not the cast. Tonight I saw a troupe that has developed an integrity that only comes from years of commitment to the pursuit of a dramatic outlet apart from the all too real dramatic cyclone of DC.