Starting Friday night and through the weekend, the Nome Arts Council is bringing together a group of amateur actors to put on “a trivial comedy for serious people:” Oscar Wilde’s famous play “The Importance of Being Earnest.”
Despite practicing for months, the cast of the famous “comedy about manners” had some trouble explaining what it’s all about.
“It’s about a couple of friends,” said co-star Erin Lillie, who plays Jack, “whose identities are not what they claim them to be…”
“As we get into it we learn that Earnest may be more than one person,” said KNOM’s Courtney Cousins, whose character Cecily is among a pair who falls for a character named Earnest, “and more than one person may be engaged to Earnest.”
“This whole time, their names really aren’t Earnest, but that’s really the main reason why they wanted to marry Earnest, because his name was Earnest,” added Marjorie Tahbone, who plays Gwendolyn, another character who’s fallen for the titular Earnest.
Sally Kinzel, playing Miss Prism, summarized the play thematically. “It’s the importance of being not only yourself, but being honest about who you are,” she said.
Jake Kenick, playing Algernon, described the play in character: purely as it relates to him. “He’s a little flashy, a little arrogant, a little full of himself.” He paused. “It was a real stretch for me to reach for that character.”
“I really don’t know what this play is about, to tell you the truth,” Lillie admitted.
The all-Nome cast in the “comedy about manners” also features Bill Doughty, Sam Cross, and Chad Callahan.
The production is directed Kevin Keith, who said that even though the play was written more than 100 years ago, like all good plays, what it’s really about is why it’s timeless.
“It was written in the 1890s, so it takes place in Victorian England,” Keith began. “Oscar Wilde [was] very much commenting on the society of his time, and a lot of the hypocrisy, and the way we have to behave that is maybe not truthful but perhaps makes our interactions with other human beings more smooth.”
He reflected that even if “we think things back then were so different, and a lot of things were, but the basic social commentary still holds true today.”
Some of that commentary is delivered by a character played by a longtime pillar of Nome’s theater scene, Richard Beneville, who plays Lady Bracknell.
“‘A gorgon of the sternest sort,’” Beneville laughs, adopting a stiff British accent will rolling Rs. “She’s a pill! She is the maven of society and everything that is proper, and all of this, hello central!”
Beneville has worked with the Nome Arts Council to put on shows for more than thirty years. For the first time in decades, he’s stepping on stage to take on a major role.
“I’ve directed the plays but I’ve not been in ‘em … But this role, and this play, the Importance of Being Earnest, I can’t tell you, I am so stoked!”
He added quietly, “I can’t remember my lines, but I’m stoked!”
The show primaries Friday, May 1, at Nome Elementary at 7 p.m., with an encore performance Saturday at 7 p.m. and a matinee show Sunday at 2 p.m. Tickets are $8 dollars for adults, $5 dollars for youth and elders. Admission to the Saturday show is free of charge due to sponsorship from Wells Fargo.