"The Importance of Being Earnest" at SUNY New Paltz

NEW PALTZ — Oscar Wilde’s effervescent masterpiece The Importance of Being Earnest is next in the SUNY New Paltz Department of Theatre Arts’ 2006-2007 season. Subtitled, “A Trivial Comedy for Serious People,” the delightfully amusing play is performed March 1 – 11 in Parker Theatre on the SUNY New Paltz campus.

Cecily Cardew (Emma Rivkah Jerome) and Algernon Moncrieff (Zach Summers) pictured

Part satire, part comedy of manners, and part intellectual farce, The Importance of Being Earnest presents a drawing-room world peopled with lively, unforgettable characters who say the cleverest, most scandalously unsentimental things about life, love and Victorian society.

John Worthing and his friend Algernon Moncrieff are two wealthy young Englishmen who shirk responsibility whenever possible. Algernon avoids obligations by fleeing to the country; Jack evades responsibility by escaping to the city.

They fall in love with two young ladies who have their hearts set on marrying men named Ernest, but rather than confronting the situation directly, Jack and Algy engage in an elaborate deception featuring a fictional wayward brother and an imaginary invalid, which lead to more surprises than even they could have envisioned.

Below the surface of this light, brittle comedy is a serious subtext that takes aim at self-righteous moralism and hypocrisy. Wilde’s wit and verbal pyrotechnics mask his biting satire, which questions what we value most in life. Are we truly “earnest,” or do we just wish to adopt the name for the sake of appearances?

Frank Trezza, Chair of the Department of Theatre Arts says “With Earnest, Wilde both lampoons and makes innovative use of the dramaturgical devices of traditional comedy and modern drama. In addition, his wonderfully original characters and his witty dialogue redefined the comedy of manners for the English stage.” The SUNY New Paltz production is directed by Nancy Saklad, Assistant Professor of Theatre who specializes in acting, voice and speech.

Russ Dembin performs the role of Jack Worthing

[The Department of Theatre Arts has planned a post-performance talkback for Friday, March 9. It is titled “Etiquette in Earnest: The Importance of Social Values in High Society. Speakers include Professors Reva Wolf (Art History), and Lynne Crockett (English). This event is free and open to all.

i]The Importance of Being Earnest is performed March 1, 2, 3, and 8, 9, 10 at 8 p.m. Matinee performances on March 4 and 11 begin at 2 p.m. Tickets are $16 General Reserved, $14 Reserved Senior/ Student/ Staff. They are available online at www.newpaltz.edu/theatre or by phone at 845-257-3880.