To celebrate their 50th anniversary season, Performing Arts of Woodstock is presenting Oscar Wilde’s play, THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST, at the Mescal Hornbeck Community Center right in the town on Rock City Road.
Director and Production Designer Robert McBroom has pieced together a well-crafted, entertaining show, and the pace is quick and steady. The scenery and costumes evoke the upper crust lifestyles of the Britain of yesteryear artfully and tastefully. Each actor captures the flavor of Oscar Wilde’s final great work. Particularly strong is Neil Howard as Algernon Moncrieff. Howard is an actor/filmmaker/musician from the San Francisco area who is making his debut with Performing Arts of Woodstock.
However well-executed the production is, first and foremost, the play’s the thing. The dialog in this play demonstrates Wilde’s mature talents. He was an unmatched wit and wordsmith. He actually titled his play THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST: A TRIVIAL COMEDY FOR SERIOUS PEOPLE, and history has it that certain critics at the debut in London in 1895 didn’t know what to make of a play so preoccupied with the trivial aspects of life.
In the play, Algernon, Jack, Gwendolen and Cecily, express romantic thoughts and plan for marriage, under the rule of their rigid, formidable guiding light, Lady Bracknell. The excitement is not so much in the unfolding of the plot as it is in the pithy lines.
A couple of my favorites are: “All women become like their mothers. That is their tragedy. No man does, and that is his.” and “I am sick to death of cleverness. Everyone is clever nowadays.”
The Performing Arts of Woodstock production is good community theater. And good community theater is always a treat. While this production cannot be compared to a more polished Broadway or West End presentation, it is entertaining. On opening night, occasionally, an actor bungled a line, but the audience was quite forgiving. When the concept of community theater functions according to plan, the audience recognizes the performers onstage, and urges them on to success. And you do not need to be a resident of the community to join in the warm and friendly atmosphere.
You may find yourself leaving the theater with thoughts of cucumber sandwiches, muffins, and tea, but the trivial travails of Algernon and Jack, Gwendolen and Cecily, will not trouble your dreams.
THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST will continue playing Fridays through Sundays, the weekends of April 4-6 and April 18-20.
Audrey Kupferberg is a film and video archivist and appraiser. She teaches film studies at the University at Albany and has co-authored several entertainment biographies with her husband and creative partner, Rob Edelman.
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