Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest, subtitled A Trivial Comedy for Serious People, will delight audiences of all ages at the start of the holiday season. The show opens on November 1 and runs through November 17 on the Church Hill Theatre main stage.
An international favorite since it opened in 1895, Earnest is a frothy triumph of the English language, poking fun at the (not so fine) manners of the British upper class. Wilde is sharply critical of Victorian institutions, including religion, marriage, finances and education, but with such witty humor that both audiences and the characters themselves accept preposterous plot twists with wide-eyed good humor. Jack Worthing is extremely wealthy but, as a foundling, lacks the “breeding” deemed necessary to marry Gwendolyn Fairfax, Lady Bracknell’s beautiful daughter. If Jack cannot have Gwendolyn, then his best friend Algernon, Lady Bracknell’s nephew, is no fit suitor for Worthing’s own ward, the innocent young Cecily. The four young people eventually find their own ways to true love, thwarted by Lady Bracknell and assisted (perhaps) by Cecily’s governess, Miss Prism, and the local vicar, Dr. Chasuble. The “downstairs” staff in both London and the country add their own social perspectives.
Sylvia Maloney, who more usually manages large casts of singers and dancers in the theatre’s musicals, directs the CHT revival. That skill is apparent in the strong ensemble work she achieves with her experienced cast. Debra Ebersole plays the gorgon-like Lady Bracknell. Christine Kinlock plays her daughter, Gwendolyn Fairfax, and John Beck plays her nephew, Algernon Moncrieff. Jack Worthing is portrayed by Howard Mesick and Jack’s ward, Cecily Cardew, by Cavin Moore. Sheila Austrian portrays Miss Prism, Cecily’s governess; Charles “Pat” Patterson has the role of Dr. Chasuble; Frank St-Armor plays Lane, Algernon’s wise butler; and Jim Johnson and Ronald “Speedy” Christopher, Jr. share the role of Merriman, the servant at Jack’s country house.
Sylvia Maloney also served as producer for this production. She was assisted by Tom and Pam Rhodes, who designed the set while Jim Johnson and Carmen Grasso aided in its construction. Providing the wonderful Victorian costumes is Tina Johnson with Doug Kaufmann as the lighting designer and technician and Hester Sachse designing the sound. Jim Johnson and Speedy Christopher also serve as the co-stage managers. Steve Atkinson is the photographer.
The Importance of Being Earnest runs from November 1 to 17, with performances on Fridays and Saturdays at 8 pm and on Sundays at 2 pm. CHT offers special 2 for the price of 1 tickets on opening night, Friday, November 1 for those who reserve by phone. Call the box office at 410-556-6003 or visit the website www.churchhilltheatre.org for details and reservations.
Earnest 1: Sheila Austrian and Charles “Pat” Patterson are Miss Prism and Dr. Chausable in the Church Hill Theatre production of The Importance of Being Earnest opening on November 2. Photo by Steve Atkinson.
Earnest 2: Howard Mesick (left) is Jack Worthing and John Beck (left) is Algernon Moncrieff, but both would rather be Ernest in Oscar Wilde’s classic comedy at CHT. Photo by Steve Atkinson.
Earnest 3: Algernon and Jack (John Beck, left and Howard Mesick, right) each try to woo the rather skeptical Cecily and Gwendolyn (Cavin Moore, center left and Christine Kinlock, center right) in CHT’s production of The Importance of Being Earnest. Photo by Steve Atkinson.
Earnest 5: Lady Bracknell (Debra Ebersole) is certainly not easily impressed by Jack Worthing (Howard Mesick) in the Church Hill Theatre production of Oscar Wilde’s effervescent comedy, The Importance of Being Earnest running from November 1 to 17. Photo by Steve Atkinson.