Wellington High Theatre Review: Earnest’s First Time

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Juliana Diatezua, Copy Editor

Transformed under the burning lights of Wellington High School’s theatre, Dylan Race, senior, proclaimed, “The truth is rarely pure and never simple” and so set the stage for the first night showing of WHS Drama Club’s “The Importance of Being Earnest.”

“The general premise of the play is that it’s a satire on how important high-society is,” Mr. Schaber, drama teacher and director, explained of the play after the prior night’s dress rehearsal. “That society is so shallow that [these two girls] would only marry somebody named Earnest.”

As far as the presentation of high-society goes, one student’s opening-night performance in particular shone clearly to have embodied a time period where the only things higher in the air than the hairdos were the noses. Jimmy Smith, senior, playing the traditionally cross-dressed role of Lady Bracknell, became an unexpected star for the night through his acting range. From Smith’s first full piece of dialogue, the feeling of annoyance and fear towards the socialite’s presence that was held by the actors immediately transcended to the audience, evoking a suspension of belief oftentimes rare to find in high school productions. The attraction of Smith came as something of a surprise, as most theatre members doted on the skill level of another, Lane, played by Cameron Harker, given that he was the only non-senior amongst the group.

Smith’s appearing from offstage gave respite from portions of the production that seemed to lack a certain level of heat. Given that “Earnest” is a play rather than a musical, the verbose lines of the almost 120-year-old play’s uninterrupted dialogue did approach the point where it teetered on being long-winded. Before tandem could be reached however, Smith would revive any lost momentum with his emphatic voice and even greater stature: unfazed while literally towering over the cast in a pair of sky-high black heels.

The only figure more prominently hanging over the heads of the “Earnest” cast seemed to be nerves. With last night being the first showing of the first production of the year, an obvious level of anxiety was to be expected. However, moments arose where it seemed as if it would be more appropriate for “The Importance of Being Earnest” to be titled “The Importance of Taking a Deep Breath.” Oscar Wilde’s piece was intended for its lines to be spoken rather quickly, intended for those that can see irony in the most subtle nuances after all, but there were moments where the need to spit out lines seemed pressed in certain actors. For this, the punch-lines—more arm-nudges than punches, if anything—were at times driven through without giving the audience full time to bask in them.
This slight nervousness did turn out to be beneficial for some, as could be seen in the performance by Mackenzie Dulin in the role of Chasuble. Though having his presence be of the few and far apart nature, the times where Dulin did appear—typically opposite senior Ashley Dupont as Miss Prism—he effectively portrayed the unease of a clergyman forcing himself into a state of repose in lieu of romantic pursuits. From this, the few slight slip-ups that did occur didn’t disengage the audience from the piece due to its focus.

One thing that could not be taken away from the production, regardless of speed or stumbles, was the clear chemistry between its main characters. Cohorts and competitors Algernon Moncrieff and John Worthington, respectively played by Race and Parker Angel, met their match for the most dynamic foils in the female leads of Alice Habib as Gwendolen Fairfax, and Samantha Cordoves as Cecily Cardew. In an unexpected climax to the production, the two women slicing one other with dignified repartee like it was a back-alley knife fight left the theatre filled with the hum of “ooh’s” and laughter. The hand-fans waved between each insult only further punctuated the roles these students effortlessly played, while also highlighting the importance of costume design by senior Brenda Betancourt.

With twenty-four hours worth of room to improve and further the performances done by the Wellington High students, it would be impossible to predict where the production could go from last night. One can only assume from the standing applause that roared throughout the theatre that the most likely direction is up. However, in the spirit of Lady Bracknell herself, it’s best not to tamper with natural ignorance.