Show

‘The Importance of Being Earnest’ promises laughs

April 10th, 2009

Last fall at Lakeland Theatre, John Carroll University professor Martin Friedman directed community and professional actors in Oscar Wilde’s “The Importance of Being Earnest.” After a successful run, Friedman brought the 1890s comedy to JCU.

Despite consisting of older characters, the students, along with Actors Equity actor Mitchell Fields, brought a new, profound spunk to the production. “The students here bring something totally different. They bring a different kind of energy,” said Friedman.

The JCU production continues thru April 5 in Kulas Auditorium

The JCU production continues thru April 5 in Kulas Auditorium

He commented on the difference between the students’ ages and the characters’ ages, claiming that it did prevent him from doing some things within the play. Friedman changed some of the stage movements to accommodate for the student actors’ energy and versatility.

However, Friedman, a long-time director, added that Fields’ ability to relate with his role was an added boost. “It’s easier to talk about life experiences with people who have been through it,” he said. Fields was able to submerge himself in the role of Lady Bracknell, while the student actors weren’t able to relate with their characters.

Based in England, the play focuses on two young gentlemen who both use the fictitious name “Earnest,” allowing them to pursue their romantic aspirations. All is well until their pseudo-identities are discovered and endanger any hopes of achieving their amorous pursuits.

When asked about his decision to use a man to play Lady Bracknell, Friedman said, “It’s more about what Mitchell [Fields] brings to the role. He understands the time,” said Friedman. He also pointed out that Fields brings both an educational and professional aspect to the play, giving the other actors pointers along the way and anchoring the play through his humor and skill.

Wilde’s play, set in London during the Victorian era, provides humor through satire and witty language. “Comedy is so embedded in the period in which it is written,” said Friedman.

Commenting on the audience’s reaction opening night, he observed that they came to the performance wanting to laugh. “I was surprised. We had a great crowd. They laughed at everything and the actors fed off of the crowd,” said Friedman.

Since opening in 1895, the Irish playwright’s most well-known script “The Importance of Being Earnest” has remained widely popular among the theater community.

Commenting on the popularity, Friedman said, “Great lines. Great characters. The writing is good and it’s funny.” Aside from the play’s humorous content, the fact that it’s public domain and doesn’t receive any royalties allows directors to adapt the script.

For the actors, Friedman found that the dialect of the play ended up being a problem. “It’s almost like doing Shakespeare,” said Friedman.

In regards to the audience though, Friedman pointed out that the biggest challenge was the long length of the play rather than the language.

Based in England, the play focuses on two young gentlemen who both use the fictitious name “Earnest,” allowing them to pursue their romantic aspirations. All is well until their pseudo-identities are discovered and endanger any hopes of achieving their amorous pursuits.