By Emily Eiermann
The ideas of truth and lies were explored last weekend in director Patrick Chmel’s rendition of classic satire The Importance of Being Earnest, performed by Rider’s Fine Arts department.
The show is one of Oscar Wilde’s social comedies that pokes fun at the Victorian age, dramatizing forced manners, gender roles and the folly of the upper class. It begins in an elaborately-decorated flat with a man named Algernon, played by freshman Greg Clark and his close friend Jack, played by junior David Spadora. Immediately, the audience is transported to a world of posh British accents, fancy hors d’oeuvres and butlers who are capable of answering little more than “Yes, sir” to virtually all questions.
The action stays in the apartment for the entirety of Act I, during which the men discuss the alternate personas they created to avoid obligations. Jack, who uses the name Ernest in the city and his “true Christian name” in the country, explained that his family believes that Ernest is actually his brother, who is constantly up to misdeeds and subject to misfortune. The second persona grants him the freedom to travel to and from the city as he pleases. Algernon has a similar situation, using his imagined invalid friend Bunbury to travel to the country at his every whim. These double-lives get them into trouble further along in the play, when their lies are discovered by their fiancés.
The second act takes place in the garden in Jack’s country estate, where romance blooms as bright as the flowers. Jack’s 18-year-old ward Cecily Cardew, played by sophomore Alexandra Boyle, falls in love with Algernon, who is posing as Jack’s imagined brother Ernest. To make matters more interesting, Jack’s fiancé Gwendolen, played by freshman Melissa Saint-Amand, visits, and the truth is finally brought to the table.
The show was witty and unique, a far cry from the crude humor and bold lines in many comedic performances. Many of the jokes were puns that could easily fly over the heads of those not paying careful attention. For instance, Jack tells Algernon that he talks like a dentist, which is vulgar under the circumstances because it “produces a false impression.” Many of the lines followed in a similar fashion, using clever wording to bring the audience to laughter.
The acting was outstanding in Rider’s version of the play, with each of the character’s personalities drawing the audience into the story. Spadora’s character is especially engaging. His excitement, confusion and overall dramatic air capture and hold the attention of the audience. Even the smaller roles, such as junior Ryan Oliveti’s character Lane the butler, added significantly to the charisma of the show.
Overall, Rider’s rendition of the classic play is a must-see for anyone who appreciates clever humor and dramatic acting.
There are two more performances tonight at 8 p.m. and tomorrow at 2 p.m. To purchase tickets call the box office at 609-896-5303. Tickets are $20 for adults and $10 for students and seniors.