The Importance of Being Earnest

Local Talent in an Oscar Wilde Favourite

Reviewed by Mary Alderson

Oscar Wilde wrote The Importance of Being Earnest in 1895.  Even though the play is 126 years old, the humour and absurd circumstances still stand up.  Even though the play was shortened for this production, the original language was kept.  However, the cast wears modern clothing which supports the notion that the story line is still relevant today.  Oscar Wilde was known for his flamboyant style and witty writing, along with his sharp satire.

In The Importance of Being Earnest, two young men, Jack and Algernon, are on the lookout for suitable mates.  Jack likes to leave his country home and spend time in the city, so he has invented a brother Earnest who is living in the fast lane and needs to be brought in line.  Algernon has also invented a fake friend who is ailing and must be visited so he can travel to the country.  They both take the name Earnest and unfortunately both young women, that they choose to woo, love the name Earnest, making it impossible for them to revert back to their real names.  Of course, the deception results in many problems for Jack and Algernon, creating the comedy.  Little more about the plot can be explained without spoiling it. 

Marc Ludwig as Jack and Matthew Walker as Algernon dominate the stage. The objects of their affections are Gwendolen played by Lauren Murphy and Cecily played by Mackenzie Annis.  Kim Brouwer is Lady Bracknell, the interfering aunt, while Rebecca Rennicks plays Miss Prism, Cecily’s tutor.  The cast is rounded out with Peter McLaughlin as Doctor Chasuble, the clergyman, and Tim Annis who plays two different servants. Friends and family of the cast will be delighted to see them on the Capitol’s stage.

On opening night, the cast was still finding their rhythm with regards to comedic timing, which is made more difficult by the audience being small and spread far and wide in the theatre.  Laughter from the audience is needed to refine comedic timing and we trust they will find their pace in future performances.

All Covid protocols are in place at the Capitol. On opening night, we lined up to enter the theatre, and volunteers were attempting to space us out.  Unfortunately, some folks forgot and bunched up in the line.  Everyone must be masked and present proof of their two-dose vaccination, along with photo identification.  Then seating is assigned and carefully spaced out, with less than half of the 350 seats being used.

After such a lengthy shutdown, the Capitol obviously needs a means to generate income.  With The Importance of Being Earnest in the public domain, it can be altered and presented royalty free. In fact, the three-act play was shortened to 90 minutes with no intermission.  This is a wise move in Covid times, as washroom visits at break time cause patrons to crowd together.  In addition, the use of local actors, rather than professionals from outside the area, saves on expenses.  As well, it could be viewed as a safety measure, making sure all cast members were residents of the area to prevent any spread of Covid.  We should note that the Capitol usually employs professional actors who are members of Equity (the actors’ union which sets standards and pay rates).

The Important of Being Earnest continues at the Capitol Theatre in Port Hope until October 17, with all Covid protocols in place.  Tickets are available at the box office by calling 905-885-1071 or visiting .

Photo: Lauren Murphy (Gwendolen), Marc Ludwig (Jack), Kim Brouwer (Lady Bracknell), Matt Walker (Algernon) and Mackenzie Annis (Cecily).  Photo by Lana Missen.

The Importance of Being Earnest
By Oscar Wilde
Adapted by the cast
Directed by Susan Ferley
Performed by Mackenzie Annis, Tim Annis, Kim Brouwer, Marc Ludwig, Peter McLaughlin, Lauren Murphy, Rebecca Rennicks, Matthew Walker.  
Cameco Capitol Arts Centre, Port Hope
September 16 to October 17, 2021
Reviewed by Mary Alderson


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