The Importance of Being Earnest
  by Oscar Wilde
  Huron Playhouse, Huron, Ohio
  July 2010

This classic comedy of manners, the quintessential witty farce from the Victorian period, was produced during my eighth summer at the Huron Playhouse, Ohio's longest-running summer theatre.

The story of the play is familiar to most regular theatre goers. The profligate Algernon has learned that his friend Earnest, whom he had assumed to be most upright and boring, is leading an apparent double life - in the city he goes by Earnest, but in the country he goes by Jack, and moreover has a young ward, Cecily. Ever adventuresome, Algy, who is known for concocting an invalid friend Bunbury to cover for his visits to the country, discovers the location of Jack's country estate and shows up, announcing himself to Cecily as Jack's brother Earnest. When Jack's sweetheart Gwendolen arrives, the mistaken identity of who Earnest is the engine for the comedy, whose improbable plot is resolved by various revelations and happy accidents - including an heir apparent who years earlier had been absent-mindedly placed in a handbag by Cecily's governess Miss Prism and left behind by her at a train station, to be found an orphan and raised as .... [you get the picture].

Described by Wilde as "A Trivial Comedy for Serious People," the text is sometimes approached by many modern theatre practitioners with a "deadpan" style. However, we discovered in our process that the apparent seriousness of delivery should be matched with energy and verve of a farce for an "energetically committed gravity" rather than the softer touch and lower energy implied by the term"deadpan."

 The pre-production process was unusual, in that the set had already been designed and built for a production elsewhere, which presented some staging challenges. The fragmented unit-wagon design and faux-parquet-tile floor helped immensely, as pieces could easily be adjusted, yet retain a unified illusion of space.

As is usual with the Huron Playhouse, actors, tech staff (and some designers) were drawn from regional auditions, with performers drawn from all over the USA. The character work of the actors in this production was quite excellent, especially those who had to portray the balance of "serious farce" in aged persons.


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Copyright 2012 by Ken McCoy.