The Chilliwack Players Guild is proud to present The Importance of Being Earnest at the Chilliwack Cultural Centre starting Oct. 17 The comedy is directed by Clint Hames, who has previously directed many Guild performances, including Fiddler on the Roof and Noises Off.
The Importance of Being Earnest, the classic comedic satire, written by Oscar Wilde in 1894, was first performed on Valentine's Day, 1895, at London's St. James Theatre. Billed as "a trivial comedy for serious people," the play, though initially successful, eventually resulted in the exposition of Wilde's controversial personal life, and failed to bring the author commercial success. It wasn't until 1901, one year after Wilde's death, when the actor George Alexander, who played Jack in the original performance, effectively revived the play in London, leading to numerous performances over the next century. Revisions of the play include three cinematic adaptations, the most recent starring Rupert Everett, Colin Firth and Judi Dench in 2002. Earnest is now recognized as one of Wilde's most critically acclaimed works.
Earnest is different than "your common garden-variety farce," said director Clint Hames. "It's a difficult play to do, but it allows the director a lot of creativity."
Hames is confident that Earnest is not only a good play, but an important play.
"It's a way better script than I thought it was," Hames said. "It's one of those ones that everybody's heard of, but once you start researching it and really working with it, you think 'Wow. .. the reason this thing has endured is because it's just so clever and so well-written. Oscar Wilde is actually a genius.' " The witty satire was Wilde's way of mocking the structure of Victorian society; specifically, the uncompromising societal norms.
Hames said all the Guild actors have carefully studied Wilde's play and are well informed of the context in which it was written. "They've really done their homework," he said. "As all good actors do."
Wilde's characters consistently push the limits of Victorian society and explore the hilarious consequences of what happens when those who are attempting to break out of these imposed structures come into conflict with those who are still embedded within them. Both the leading male characters, Jack and Algernon (played by J.D. Dueckman and Danny Campbell), employ similar strategies to help them avoid these obligations. They act as a foil to traditionalist Lady Bracknell (played by Joan Hogan), who represents old-fashioned Victorian society.
Victorian social norms were extremely institutionalized and rigid.
"What this play does is introduce a number of characters who are emerging from that structure and saying 'Wait a minute, I want my life to be more fun!'" said Hames.
Though Earnest was written over a century ago, the themes in the play are still applicable today, encouraging all of us not to take societal norms at face value and, above all else, not to take life too seriously.
. The Importance of Being Earnest runs Oct. 17 to 20 and Oct. 24 to 26. Tickets are $25 for adults and $20 for senior and students with a $5 reduction on Oct. 17. Showtimes are 7:30 p.m. with the exception of Oct. 20, which is a 2 p.m. matinee. Tickets are available by phone at 604-391-SHOW or by going to the Chilliwack Cultural Centre.
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