The Importance of Being Earnest – Proper Victorian Humour Proves Timeless

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by Lorraine Payette, written July 29, 2014

“I am sick to death of cleverness. Everybody is clever nowadays. You can’t go anywhere without meeting clever people. The thing has become an absolute public nuisance. I wish to goodness we had a few fools left.”

– Jack in The Importance of Being Earnest

Be prepared for a Wilde time of it as the Thousand Islands Playhouse treats you to a proper Victorian look and laugh at ourselves and our inner fools in its delightful production of The Importance of Being Earnest.

“I think it’s pretty good,” said Chris, a student from Ajax who came to the show with family. “I’m not used to this kind of humour, but I find it witty and a lot of it is pretty relevant even now. I would definitely recommend this to friends. People my age might think they wouldn’t like it, but if they go, they’ll definitely end up enjoying it. I’ve never seen another play like this, and the jokes are still really funny. Everyone seems to be having a good time – my mum’s laughing, I’m laughing, it’s perfect.”

From its first performance on February 14, 1895, at the St. James Theatre in London, The Importance of Being Earnest has been delighting audiences everywhere. While poking fun at the Victorians and their manners, the characters are all recognizable as people we really know and deal with every day. How many false telephone numbers have been given out, how many purely imaginary excuses and wild stories told to avoid social obligations? How many people have pretended to be someone else in hope of winning the heart of a charming stranger? Wilde’s insights into humanity and his ability to share them with the world remain forever fresh and endearing.

Wilde is quoted as having said that the play’s theme was “That we should treat all trivial things in life very seriously, and all serious things of life with a sincere and studied triviality.” The characters do precisely that, and the end result is a delightful evening’s romp through the machinations of relationships as couples work toward their goals of matrimony.

Brash young playboys Algernon (Brett Christopher) and Jack (Kirk Smith) have both developed false characters to help them avoid the unpleasant duties of society. Both of them end up taking on the alias “Ernest” and hilarity ensues as they pursue romance with two beautiful women who both desperately dream of marrying a man named Ernest. And all of them deeply in earnest…

“Every time I read this play, I fall in love with each silly, satirical character, the exquisite wordplay and the ridiculously enjoyable plot,” said Ashlie Corcoran, artistic director. “We reunited this team from across the country on purpose – to bring our audience the best work possible.”

Playhouse attendees will remember much of the cast from Boeing! Boeing! and The Postmistress. Brett Christopher (Algernon), Tess Degenstein (Cecily), Alison Deon (Gwendolyn), Kirk Smith (Jack) and Martha Irving (Lady Bracknell) bring a chemistry and closeness to the production that make you feel like you’ve settled into the drawing room to share this moment in time with intimate friends. Deborah Drakeford (Miss Prism) and Jody Richardson (Reverend Chasuble) add depth to the story, and a wonderfully humourous portrayal of the two butlers is carried off by Ian D. Clark (Lane and Merriman).

“The play is great, very entertaining,” said Peter Milliken. “It’s most enjoyable and very well done.”

“This is the third time I’ve seen the play,” said Anne Cummings. “This new production is right up there with the other two. I’m very much a fan of Oscar Wilde, and this is excellent.”

“We came down yesterday, stayed at a B&B and watched the play this evening,” said Ken Jones of Ottawa. “We’ve been down before, and we always recommend it to people. We’ve convinced our friends from Mississauga to come this time, let them see what there is to offer.”

The Importance of Being Earnest runs from July 25 – August 23, 2014, at the Springer Theatre, 690 Charles Street South in Gananoque, Ontario. Running time for the play is 2 hours, 25 minutes (including intermission). Show times are Tuesday through Saturday 8:00 pm, with matinees on Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday at 2:30 pm (starting the Wednesday after opening night). Tickets are $32 for adults, $30 for seniors age 65+, $16 for students. HST is applicable to all ticket prices. Group tickets are available at $26 – $28 each including GST. This show is recommended for people of all ages. For more information, please go to http://www.1000islandsplayhouse.com or contact the box office at 613-382-7020.

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