“The Importance of Being Earnest” is a widely recognized title.
Many individuals read the play as a part of their high school curriculum and some read it after stumbling upon it on their own. It was even adapted into a film — twice.
Even though reading the play is a great experience in itself and I’m sure the movies at least relatively do it justice, it would be a mistake not to see the masterpiece as it was originally intended — for the stage.
“The Importance of Being Earnest” captivated its audience opening night at the Herberger Theater Center on Saturday. The play is hilarious, charming, witty and exceptionally brilliant.
The actors did justice to the production, which is put on by the Arizona Theatre Company and directed by Stephen Wrentmore. And if you’re not familiar with the plot of the piece, that’s no reason not to see it. For those who know what’s coming, it’s wonderful. And for those who don’t, it might even be more enjoyable.
“The Importance of Being Earnest” takes place in 1894 in England. The intellectual comedy mainly revolves around two men in high society who fall in love and are then forced to fight their way out of the tangled web of lies they created before they can marry.
You learn early on why the play is named the way it is. While the characters do, in fact, learn the importance of being earnest, one character in particular learns the extreme importance of being Ernest. Jack lies to his fiancee, Gwendolyn, and tells her his name is Ernest for reasons of his own. He then learns that she believes she can love no one who is not named Ernest — right when he was about to come clean.
Then there’s the problem of Gwendolyn’s highly illogical and ostentatious mother not approving of the union because Jack was found in a purse as a baby and doesn’t know his “origins.” She doesn’t feel as though he is good enough for her daughter.
The way the play goes about unfolding and solving this minor problem offers the best entertainment available. Though highly nonsensical at times, the show is very witty and intelligently written, with humor that any age group can enjoy and appreciate. Even the children in the audience seemed to be enjoying themselves.
The cast is incredibly talented and embodies Wilde’s characters well. Portraying such timeless characters can’t be easy, but the casting director chose the actors wisely. The theatre company has also brought back Anneliese van der Pol from last season’s “Emma” to portray the leading lady.
The former Disney Channel star of That’s So Raven also played on Broadway as Belle in “Beauty and the Beast” and more recently starred in “Vampires Suck,” a spoof film based on the Twilight series.
Scenic and costume designer Yoon Bae deserves to be recognized as well. The set is gorgeous. There are very many ways a person can choose to set up a stage during such a grand and lavish time period, but the stage was always simple, elegant and stunning. It didn’t draw your eye from the actors or look out of place.