The Importance of Being Earnest
At four different times throughout the weekend of June 4th, a group of Pawling High School students thrilled audiences with a production of Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest. A play based on irony, puns, and comedy, The Importance of Being Earnest was the school’s first attempt at a non-musical show in years. The director, Chris Barberesi, a senior in high school and mastermind behind the Pawling’s Drama Club, worked night and day to pull the play together while also starring in the show as Algernon, one of the main characters.
“It was a very exciting and nerve-wracking experience. I didn’t know how the community would respond to a play, but it was a success in every way,” Barberesi said. The show was double-cast for female roles due to the talent exhibited during auditions.
The play begins in a London home, owned by Algernon Moncrieff (Barberesi), who resides there with his servant, Lane (Tessa Dickinson/Georgia Costigan). Shortly thereafter, Jack Worthing (Paul Rabbitt) enters and begins conversing with Algernon as Algernon awaits the arrival of his aunt, Lady Bracknell (Lizzie Comiskey/Nicole Ribbeck), and his cousin, Gwendolen Fairfax (Christine O‘Neil/Laura Kay Alves). Jack reveals his plan to propose to Miss Fairfax that day, and confesses that he has a ward, Cecily Cardew (Katherine Boeglin/Julia Rock) in the country. Jack also admits to leading a double life, taking on the name of “Ernest” in town and “Jack” in the country. Cecily believes that Jack has a brother named Ernest, who is constantly sick, which is why he leaves for London so often. Gwendolen believes Jack’s real name to be Ernest, which leads her to accept his marriage proposal, even though Lady Bracknell disapproves.
When Algernon discovers that Cecily is romantically interested in Jack’s imaginary brother, Algernon decides to take on the persona of Ernest in the country, in order to become involved in Cecily’s life. Jack attempts to “kill” his town brother, however Algernon shows up claiming to be said brother.
As the play continues, the struggle between the double lives of both Jack and Algernon is unveiled. Each decides to be christened Ernest by Reverend Canon Chasuble (James McAuliffe), until they decide to simply be earnest with both Gwendolen and Cecily, who eventually forgive both and still plan on marrying the men.
Meanwhile, Jack discovers that he was mistakenly left at a train station by his ward’s tutor, Miss Prism (Luke Porter) and later adopted and christened Jack. It turns out, however, that Jack is in fact Algernon’s brother, and that his real name is Ernest.
Though the play may seem slightly confusing due to the irony and pun created by Oscar Wilde, it is comical and brilliant. The Pawling cast did a fantastic job of capturing this humor while also telling the story in such a way that there was no confusion with the plot. Each scene became funnier than the next as the small cast continued to delight the audience. One memorable moment occurred completely accidentally. At one point, Jack (Rabbitt) and Algernon (Barberesi) were arguing with each other about muffins. Each continued to grab the plate of muffins out of the other’s hand, stuffing a muffin in their mouth each time. Paul stuffed one too many muffins in his mouth, and was forced to spit the chewed remains in his hand. Because this was not planned, Chris was forced to improvise, taking the chewed muffins and tossing them backstage, continuing to argue with Jack as Algernon. The ad-lib was perfectly mastered, and made the play that much more hysterical.
The production of The Importance of Being Earnest by the Pawling High School Drama Club was a risky move, however, it was one worth taking. The play was funny, ironic, well-directed, well-cast, and overall a great piece of entertainment for children and adults alike.