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The Importance of Being Earnest

Written by Oscar Wilde
Directed by Susannah Martin

Photos by Jay Yamada

Presented by Town Hall Theatre Company
February 25 – March 27, 2010

CONTRA COSTA TIMES “Under the thoughtful direction of Susannah Martin, the actors have a great deal of fun with Oscar Wilde’s witty satire on society’s foibles. Moving the time to the 1920s adds pizazz enhanced through the colorful costumes (Rebecca Redmond) and lovely set (Nina Ball). The highly stylized production takes full advantage of the wonderful characters Wilde penned.” – Sally Hogarty

ROSSMOOR NEWS “Director Susannah Martin and her production team have sculpted a well crafted production…This play, in the wrong hands, is just another trivial comedic pursuit, but in this production, with its precise execution and attention to detail, you will be rewarded with an entertainment experience that is quite exceptional in local or regional theater.” – Charlie Jarrett

BENICIA HERALD “…director Susannah Martin brings out the best in the entire cast for a fun, lighthearted look at hypocrisy in the social mores of the early 1900s.” – Elizabeth Warnimount

Director’s Note
Why set a classic Victorian comedy in the 1920’s? The Importance of Being Earnest is full of artifice, posing, duality, and the battle between what’s superficial and what’s serious. The hidden depths in the supposedly trivial pursuits that our characters hold dear are the unexpected riches in the play. It was this world of posing, storytelling, and secret lives that compelled me to move the play forward in time. What better age to represent a desperate desire for amusement as a means to blot out the pains of the past and the anxiety of the future than the 1920’s: an era of excess, Jazz, and a booming youth culture. Just as the play reveals concealed complexity in our supposedly superficial characters, the 20‘s had an undercurrent of anger and trauma that drove the almost willful quest for entertainment.

Another theme in the script that drew me to a more modern era was the correlation between the women’s behavior in the play and the shift in women’s roles in the 1920’s. Hemlines changed, hair length changed, the corset went away: youth culture was born. Some women got the vote and the suffragette movement was alive and well. Women were also struggling to re-acclimate to a life that demanded, after WWI, that they go back to their roles as wife and mother. In Earnest, whenever the women are on stage, they control the scene, the space, and ultimately, the outcome. If women had enjoyed a new freedom and then were suddenly expected to re-conform to old ideas, how would they still find a way to control their circumstances? Certainly Gwendolen and Cecily would embrace popular culture as a means of claiming some sort of freedom of expression. But I also think they would speak their minds as openly as they do in the script. The audacity of these two very modern women surprise Algernon and Jack so completely that they speak the truth, claim their identities, and fall in love – truly – for the first time.

Merriman / Kristoffer Barrera
Gwendolyn Fairfax / Sally Clawson
Algernon Moncrieff / Christopher Kristant
Cecily Cardew / Casi Maggio
Jack “Ernest” Worthing / Ryan O’Donnell
Lady Bracknell / Nancy Sale
Miss Prism / Trish Tillman
Lane + Dr. Chasuble / Don Wood

Artistic Director / Clive Worsley
Managing Director / Vangie Long
Assistant Director / Ava Jackson
Assistant Stage Manager / Maggie Manzano
Costume Design / Rebecca Redmond
Lighting Design / Chris Guptill
Production Manager + Stage Manager / Leah McKibbin
Properties Design / Chris Kristant + Rebecca Pingree
Set Design / Nina Ball
Sound Design / Patrick Kaliski