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Societal Pressure Existed Before Facebook? 'The Importance Of Being Earnest' At A Noise Within

Francesca Calvo |
October 7, 2014 | 8:11 p.m. PDT


Marisa Douchowny and Carolyn Ratteray. Photo by Craig Schwartz
Marisa Douchowny and Carolyn Ratteray. Photo by Craig Schwartz
If you think Facebook and other social media are the reasons for the extreme materialism and societal pressure of twenty-first century society, think again. Oscar Wilde’s "The Importance of Being Earnest," now playing at A Noise Within, embraces the obligations humanity feels to maintain appearances and conform to the social norm. Wilde satirizes the foolishness of Victorian aristocracy in a witty and farcical story of misconception. 

John Worthing (Christopher Salazar) resides in the country where he looks after the young Cecily Cardew (Marisa Douchowny). Nevertheless, when Mr. Worthing escapes his responsibilities and goes to the city for pleasure, he goes by the name Earnest. He visits his friend, Algernon Moncrieff (Adam Haas Hunter) and the love of his life, Gwendolyn Fairfax (Carolyn Ratteray). Algernon suspects Mr. Worthing’s lie when he reads “to dear Uncle Jack” on Mr. Worthing’s cigarette case. Algernon finally confronts Mr. Worthing about his “Bunburying”, also known as using an alter ego, and admits to doing the same.

Conflict arises when Mr. Worthing is deemed unworthy of Cecily’s hand in marriage by her Aunt Lady Bracknell (Jean Gilpin) and Algernon falls in love with Cecily under the name of Mr. Worthing’s alter ego, Earnest. When the men’s spate worlds all converge in the country, the charade is not so easy to maintain. However, the minute details of Wilde’s satirical commentary require extreme precision and craft. Although the production is fun to watch, it glosses over the specificity of Wilde’s language.  The play communicates some of the playwright’s commentary on society, but fails to fully reflect the absurdity of the given circumstances.  In result, the ending catharsis is diminished because the actors feel more like characters acting on a stage than people living in a world. 

SEE ALSO: 'The Tempest' At A Noise Within Takes Its Audience By Storm

Under the direction of Michael Michetti, there is no doubt that the actors have fun taking the audience on the messy journey of Wilde’s "The Importance of Being Earnest." Carolyn Ratteray and Jean Gilpin’s portrayal of the mother-daughter duo satirize how the Victorian aristocracy handled important subjects such as marriage with triviality. Moreover, Michetti’s direction serves the beautifully crafted comedic structure of the play. Regardless of having read Wilde’s classic or not, A Noise Within’s production of "The Importance of Being Earnest" is filled with the clever suspense and surprise of the author’s artful scheming.

The scenic design by Jeanine Ringer is simple and serves the needs of the play. The set does a wonderful job at creating a realistic world for the characters without a seemingly grandiose budget. The scenic changes in themselves are wonderfully crafted moments that exist within the story. To further complete the world, the costume designer Garry Lennon distinguishes the unique personality of each character with color, texture, and style.

"The Importance of Being Earnest," playing at Pasadena's A Noise Within, is the perfect play if one is looking to enjoy a classic. Although the play is no easy feat, the production touches upon a theme that has existed since the 1890s: the foolish behavior that stems from the pressure to maintain societal appearances.

"The Importance of Being Earnest" is playing through November 22 at A Noise Within (3352 East Foothill Blvd., Pasadena). Tickets start at $40. For more information call (626) 356-3100 or visit www.ANoiseWithin.org.

Contact Contributor Francesca Calvo here.

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