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ND Student Players

Courtney Cox | Thursday, August 25, 2011

Shakespeare famously wrote, “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” In “The Importance of Being Earnest,” Oscar Wilde playfully disagrees.

The production, being put on this weekend by the Notre Dame Student Players, is carried by Wilde’s renowned wit but bolstered by the individual personalities the actors bring to their characters.

The rehearsal schedule has been hectic for the cast and crew, considering they have been rehearsing for just under two weeks, but that doesn’t cause the production to lose any of its charm.

“It’s been a very fast-paced process, but every step has been so much fun,” Director Renee Roden said when asked about the experience of putting together a show at the end of the first week of classes.

The performance even addresses the thrown-together nature of the show’s rehearsal process in the opening scene.

Two actors enter the stage talking to each other and the audience, leaving some watching confused, until the rest of the cast enters. The noise rises to a loud clatter and it is finally understood that the actors are entering as themselves rather than their characters.

They reveal a nervous energy, and the possible stress involved with putting on the production in such a short amount of time. The addition to Wilde’s script serves to make the entire production more endearing.

The show, set to take place behind Pangborn, is made more charming by its surroundings.

“We’ll be performing on a beautiful little tree-lined section of West Quad, behind Pangborn and next to Reckers,” Roden said when asked about the eclectic setting.

The idea is for the play to be a picnic show and for the audience to sit comfortably on blankets and eat food as they watch the story unfold.

Actors perform barefoot, and the set is comprised of a single square table. The minimalist setting truly allows the actors to shine.

Lady Bracknell, portrayed by Sloan Thacker, has perfected the air of pretention necessary for the role. Thacker’s mannerisms make the persnickety aunt come to life in the t comical way.

The banter between Jack and Algernon, played by Chris Brandt and Chris Silvestri respectively, is great. Jack is the quirky straight man to Algernon’s free-wheeling and slick sense of humor.

Gwendolyn and Cecily, brought to life by Clare Cooney and Stephanie Rice, bring an incredible amount of sophistication to something as catty as a girl fight.

When imagining such a duel, many call to mind the scene from “Mean Girls” in which Cady Herron pounces on Regina George in the midst of a crowded cafeteria. Oscar Wilde’s 19th century version is infinitely more refined yet equally hilarious.

The scene is a perfect example of the insanity bubbling beneath the surface throughout the entire show.

“All of us are mischievous, ridiculous beings, but when we’re out in society or in public we put on this very earnest show of being elegant, refined creatures,” Roden said.

Though the play premiered in 1895, it isn’t held back by the time period in which it was originated.

Lines like, “All women become like their mothers, it’s their tragedy. No men do, it’s theirs,” timelessly speak to phenomena that persist well into the 21st century.

The production has updated a few small lines to make the play even more relatable — watch out for a cleverly placed “Twilight” reference — but they do not take away from the original script in any way.

“Even though it’s technically a period piece, this show is anything but dated. It’s a very modern story, and so relatable for our age group.”

The show has done something unique in terms of advertising as well. Instead of relying on table tents and posters, they have taken to Twitter to promote the show through their account @EarnestND.

“We gave the actors access to the Twitter account, so they could write posts ‘in character,’ which was another fun element,” Roden said of their fresh take on advertising.

“The Importance of Being Earnest” begins today at 4 p.m. The rich dialogue and relaxed atmosphere is the perfect way to begin a theatrically charged year.