Classic ‘Trivial’ Comedy to Debut at Strand Theatre in Moundsville

The cast of “The Importance of Being Earnest,” includes, from left, Mack Kale, Bryan Braunlich, Shanan Stout, Micah Underwood, Judy Hennen, Zachary Michael, Sadie Crow, Michael Wylie and Brenden Sheehan.

MOUNDSVILLE — The Strand Theatre will present its first-ever non-musical play, the outrageous classic comedy, “The Importance of Being Earnest,” April 12-14. Cast with some of the area’s most talented actors, the play is billed as “a trivial comedy for serious people.”

Being earnest means to be purposeful, determined, industrious and ambitious, yet the idle upper-class characters of the play are anything but earnest, except about trivial matters, about which they are obsessed. Oscar Wilde created a wildly witty comic farce through conflict and contradiction in the action, dialogue and characters of “The Importance of Being Ernest,” suggesting that people lead double lives that force upon them a variety of postures.

Algernon Moncrieff (played by Bryan Braunlich) is a privileged playboy living in London, but who, in order to escape from unpleasant social obligations, has found it necessary to fabricate a friend whose ill-health compels Algernon to visit him. Often Algernon uses his imaginary friend as an excuse to evade commitments with his aunt, Lady Bracknell (portrayed by Judy Hennen) who is the quintessential matriarch, embodying the ideals of the Victorian-era elite by stressing good breeding above all else.

Algernon’s friend, known to him as Earnest, is actually Jack Worthing (played by Michael Wylie), a young country gentleman who pretends to have a badly-behaving brother in London named Earnest. When Jack wants to escape from his life in the country, he pretends that his brother needs him in the city. While there, Jack takes on the name Earnest.

It is in the city where Jack has met and fallen in love with Algernon’s first cousin, Gwendolen (portrayed by Sadie Crow). She is particularly attracted to Jack because she believes his name to be Earnest. “From the moment Algernon first mentioned to me that he had a friend called Earnest,” she tells Jack, “I knew I was destined to love you.”

When Algernon discovers the truth about Jack’s double-identity and that Jack has “an excessively pretty ward,” Algernon secretly plans to visit Jack’s country estate in order to meet the girl, Cecily (played by Shanan Stout), who has become obsessed with the idea of Jack’s bad boy brother, Earnest. Naturally, when Algernon presents himself to Cecily as Earnest, they fall in love, but not without comic complications of mistaken identities, personality clashes and amazing coincidences.

Audiences have delighted in this fast-paced farce for 125 years. This production remains largely faithful to the original staging, while remaining clear and compelling to contemporary audiences.

The show opens at 7 p.m. today, Friday, April 12, and continues at 7 p.m. Saturday, April 13, and 2 p.m. Sunday, April 14. Tickets can be purchased at the door or in advance through strandtheatrewv.com or at Frame and Fortunes on Jefferson Avenue in Moundsville.

The cast also includes Micah Underwood as Miss Prism, Zachary Michael as Reverend Chasuble, Mack Kale Jr. as Lane, and Brendan Sheehan as Merriman. Butch Maxwell is the production’s director, assisted by Amy Dick. Garrett Weigel designed the set and stage manager is Abbigail Coffman.

The Strand Theatre is located at 811 Fifth Street, Moundsville.

For more information, call 304-845-3009.

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