Last Saturday, I saw the final mainstage production for this year, “The Importance of Being Earnest” written by Oscar Wilde and directed by Professor of Theatre Neil Blackadder. I volunteered as an usher that night, so I arrived early and chatted with some of the crew members as they prepared for the top of the show.
It was my first time seeing a mainstage play here at Knox, which surprised stage manager junior Emma Lipson. I felt silly admitting that as I watched her straighten prop candles on the gorgeous set and even more so by the end of the play.
Act I takes place in the home of Algernon Moncrieff, decorated with classic furniture and a fireplace. Most of “Earnest” is about Algernon and his friend’s attempts to win the affection of their respective lady friends. I really enjoyed senior Tristan Yi’s performance as Algie, and senior Padraig Sullivan was equally (and appropriately) ridiculous in his role as John Worthing. Algie dons a largely patterned suit when the setting changes to the Worthing Manor House, making him a nice visual contrast to John, who wears long, dark suits and top hats throughout the play.
Cecily Cardew is John’s ward and Algie’s love interest, but doesn’t have much to say beyond emphasizing how important her future husband’s name is, swooning under the misconception that his name is Earnest. Similarly, the rich and proper Gwendolyn Fairfax, played by junior Chloe Vollenweider, is smitten with John while believing his name to be Earnest. There is little mention of the men’s’ professions or how they afford their lavish homes, but perhaps that’s the point.
The women in the play seem shallow to say the least, and it kind of bummed me out that we laughed about arranged marriages and a woman that pretends to study all day but mostly just daydreams and proposes to herself on behalf of her imaginary boyfriend. (Luckily for Cecily, Algie is real and likes her too! He’s just not Earnest.) Miss Prism, played by sophomore Sonya Fleming, is Cecily’s tutor and almost gave me hope, until it’s revealed she lost a baby in a bag some years ago and doesn’t seem to think much of it.
That said, freshman Raven Ringe played Cecily and I think she did a great job considering the lack of substance her character is given. Her costume was nice too, a simple apron and transparent dress with a green slip underneath that highlighted the realistic garden in which we are introduced to her character. I liked that Vollenweider often delivered her lines with such seriousness that I knew not to take her seriously, lightening the mood in unpleasant instances such as when her character’s mother decides to dictate who she can become engaged to. Senior Jordan Hurst plays her mother Lady Bracknell, whose victorian dress and matching headdress gave her all the elegance her character seems to demand in a name.
Keeping in mind it is a satire and written in the late 1800s, I’m trying not to take one part too seriously and appreciate all the brilliant timing and direction from Blackadder. The sound cues and lighting changes were subtle but noticeable to help set the mood of each scene without it feeling too cheesy. This show was funny for its ridiculousness, and seeing the cast and crew have so much fun with it definitely made it a great night.