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Importance of Being Earnest at Cloverdale Performing Arts

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Importance of Being Earnest at Cloverdale Performing Arts

Reviewed by Malena Eljumaily

Quite often these days, I worry that I've simply lost my sense of humor. Things I'm told are funny by others do not make me laugh. People seem to find disgusting and offensive things funny and I just can't go merrily down that path.  Am I to blame? Have I become a tired, old cynic?

Proof to the contrary came in the form of Cloverdale Performing Arts Center's production of Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest. During the length of the performance, I laughed and I laughed and I laughed and so did everyone else in the audience. A splendid time was had by all.

The play is subtitled “a Trivial Comedy for Serious People.”  It was first performed in 1895 in London and though the play was poking fun at characters representing another time and place, it rings just as true and funny today as it did in Victorian England. Clothes and styles may change, but human nature never does.

Dan Stryker (Algernon) & Corey Sceales (CecilyDirector Jason Edington's production hits just the right pace from start to finish. As the play begins Algernon Moncrieff (Dan Stryker) is in his flat in Half-Moon Street, where he awaits the arrival of his domineering “Aunt Agatha” aka Lady Bracknell (Diana Grogg) and her daughter, Gwendolen (Nichole Phillips) when his friend Jack Worthing (Jonathan Graham) shows up unexpectedly. Many exchanges of witticisms, breezy comments and languid put-downs ensue as these characters work through the respective difficulties they've created for themselves and others.

I don't want to go much further into the plot for two reasons: if you know the play, you probably don't need a refresher and if you're not familiar with it I want you to discover all the zany twists and reversals for yourself. Besides I couldn't describe the practice of “Bunburying” any better than Algernon does. Fans of the British sit-com Are You Being Served will be pleased with Lady Bracknell's delivery of the familiar line, “A handbag?”

In Scene Two the action moves to Jack's country home where his ward, Cecily, played to sweet perfection by Corey Sceales, and her governess, Miss Prism (Janet M. Denninger) reside. I was impressed with the set designs, by Shawn Olney, and how the flat was so easily transformed into a garden, then later to a drawing room.

Costume designer Holly Werner ups the comic ante with her colorful, over-the-top creations. I especially love the hats, they are a hoot. One worries a mighty gust of wind might cause Lady Bracknell to go airborne with all those feathers swooping out of her hat in all directions. And when was the last time you saw a man in spats? Fun, fun.

If you've seen The Importance of Being Earnest before and think there's no reason to see it again, I would encourage you to reconsider. This is one of my favorite plays and I've seen it several times, but I was pleasantly surprised at how much of the clever banter I'd forgotten, even though, of course, I knew the plot by heart.

Scholars over the years have suggested this play has lots of hidden meaning and subtext exploring themes of duplicity and ambivalence. Forget all that and enjoy the play. Sit back and spend the evening laughing at this “trivial comedy.”

Running May 13, 14, 20 and 21 at 7:30pm, May 15 and 22 at 2pm.

The Cloverdale Performing Arts Center
209 N. Cloverdale Blvd, Cloverdale, CA 95425

(707) 894-2214