Minnesota State’s Department of Theater department debuts Oscar Wilde’s “The Importance of Being Earnest” in the Ted Paul Theatre today.
“Earnest” tells the story of two bachelors, John “Jack” Worthing and Algernon Moncrieff, who create alter egos named Ernest to escape their monotonous lives. They try to win the hearts of two women who, conveniently, claim to only like Ernest men. The two find it difficult to follow their own narratives and end up entangled in a story of misadventure, deception and disguise.
Director Heather Hamilton said she usually directs dark, political and juicy plays, whereas this one is joyful, silly and goofy. She said she chose to direct it because she loves Wilde’s work, and it has been on her list for a while.
“The play itself is just a marshmallow. It is so funny, and it’s a high farce. It’s got these one-liner quips all the way through that are just hysterical,” said Hamilton. “There’s some physical comedy, too. There’s a lot of combat over muffins.”
Billy Krager plays Moncrieff and describes his character as a pompous and arrogant but loving gentleman whose primary goal is to enjoy life and poke fun at others. The show’s humor drew him to it.
“It’s just really fun to get to do on stage, and this character is so fun. I get to eat a lot, which is fun,” said Krager. “I have a scene where we’re fighting over just muffins. And that’s just really fun to run around and play with each other.”
Chandler Rosengren plays Worthing, whose character is different from Moncrieff. Rosengren said Worthing is more duty-bound and moral and does not like to poke fun at others as much as Mocrieff. What he said drew him to this play is the humor.
“In our script in the front, it says a ‘silly comedy for serious people’ or something to that effect. I think it encapsulates this whole show,” said Rosengren. “It’s a lot of witty, intellectual humor and not just slapstick. It’s something different than a normal farce.”
Rosengren said he also enjoys the play because he gets to play a bit of a different character.
“I like trying to be just outrageous, but also tone it into the kind of Victorian-like held-back feel that we’re supposed to be having but also just being outrageous,” said Rosengren.
While this play may be funny, it was difficult for the cast. Krager said he had a difficult time with memorization.
“Any show with a dialect is always something that is a workaround and takes a little bit more effort and time into getting exactly how you want it to be,” said Krager. “I got over the hump, but that hump was very large, larger than a camel.”
Rosengren said the dialect was difficult for him as well.
“It’s like second nature almost, and you’re not trying to focus on the dialect. Once you get that, then you can focus on being in the moment on stage,” said Rosengren. “It’s been a quick turnaround, and so just trying to cram everything in has been a challenge, but it’s been fun.”
Krager said he hopes people get a lot out of this play and have a good laugh. He said it’s the perfect play to bring friends and family to.
“The nice thing about this not being a slapstick show is that each character really is realistic. There’s nothing like, ‘Oh my gosh, that would be completely out of the question, that would never happen,’” said Krager. “They all have that personal connection that I think everyone can relate to in some aspects. There’s a lot of messages to take away.”
The play runs 7:30 p.m. Thursday-Saturday and Nov. 9-11; and 2 p.m. Nov. 11-12. in the Ted Paul Theatre. Tickets are available at mnsueventtickets.universitytickets.com or at the box office from 4-6 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Write to Lauren Viska at firstname.lastname@example.org
Header Photo: Actors Finnola Coughlin as Hon. Gwendolen Fairfax as (left) and Chandler Rosegren as Jack Worthing (right) preform a scene in the “Importance of Being Earnest.” The play is a trivial comedy fiction about two men forging their identities.