'The Importance of Being Earnest'

"In matters of grave importance, style, not sincerity, is the vital thing," Oscar Wilde wrote in his witty comedy, "The Importance of Being Earnest."

Director Doug Ham and a cast of nine Ashland high school students bring Wilde's play set in 1895 Victorian England to AHS's Mountain Theatre, 201 S. Mountain Ave., Ashland. Performances are set for 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, May 13-15, with a matinee on Sunday, May 16.

"Each year we wait for new challenges on stage," says Betsy Bishop, producer of plays at AHS. "We produced Shakespeare's 'Merry Wives of Windsor' last fall, then 'Grease' in March, then Jim Leonard's 'Anatomy of Gray' at the state showcase at Eugene's Hult Center in April and now Wilde's masterpiece."

With one show after another, the school's drama department has been working nonstop.

"The Importance of Being Earnest" follows Algernon Moncrieff and Jack Worthing as they maintain fictitious identities to pursue their love interests and and escape social obligations. Worthing loves Gwendolen and Moncrieff adores Cecily, and both women have always wanted to marry a man named Earnest.

The complications that ensue create hilarious consequences, and the play satirizes some of the foibles and hypocrisies of Victorian society.

"It's a beautiful show," says Bishop. "And Doug Ham has directed these students to deliver Wilde's witticisms and barbs with just the right sense of amusement and clarity. I believe it will be a big hit."

The AHS cast includes Tay Smith as Worthing, Ford Muraski-Brown as Moncrieff, Amelia Farber as Cecily, Jazmine Dake as Gwendolen, Aurelia Grierson as Lady Bracknell, Drew Starmer as Lane, Jane Excell as Miss Prism, Uriel Wolfe-Blank as Dr. Chasuble and Drew Woods as Merriman.

The show's set was designed by Ham and built by carpenter David Pedersen. Ham and Pedersen share technical direction. Bart Grady is light designer, and Emily Erlich-Inget is costume designer. Stage manager is Jacob Roe-Bauer, and Emily Weiser and Nicholas Dake are assistant set designers.

According to Bishop, Sir John Gielgud was possibly the most famous Worthing of the 20th century, performing the role in several different productions on English stages and in two sound recordings with Dame Edith Evans, the best-remembered Lady Bracknell.

A 1952 film adaptation directed by Anthony Asquith starred Michael Denison as Moncrieff, Michael Redgrave as Worthing, Dame Edith Evans as Lady Bracknell, Dorothy Tutin as Cecily, Joan Greenwood as Gwendolen and Margaret Rutherford as Miss Prism.

The 2002 film adaptation of "The Importance of Being Earnest" stars Colin Firth as Worthing, Rupert Everett as Moncrieff, Dame Judi Dench as Lady Bracknell, Reese Witherspoon as Cecily, Frances O'Connor as Gwendolen, Anna Massey as Miss Prism and Tom Wilkinson as Dr. Chasuble and was directed by Oliver Parker.

Tickets for the performances at AHS are available online at www.showtix4u.com. Tickets cost $25 for reserved seats, $10 for general seating and $5 for students and seniors. General seating, senior and student tickets also are available at Paddington Station, Tree House Books and Music Coop. Visit www.ahstheatre.net or call 482-8771 for information.

Share This Story