“In matters of grave importance, style, not sincerity, is the vital thing,” writes Oscar Wilde in the third act of “The Importance of Being Earnest.” This weekend, Masque and Gown stages the classic comedy in Pickard Theater with a generous measure of each.
The play, which takes place in Victorian England, centers on the exploits of two male friends, Jack Worthing and Algernon Moncrieff (played by Chase Gladden ’17 and James Jelin ’16) who habitually falsify their identities in order to avoid working and paying debts. All goes well until they fall in love. This comedy skewers the habits of upper-class Victorian women as well as men. Cordelia Orbach ’17 and Axis Fuksman-Kumpa ’17 play the love interests Gwendolen Fairfax and Cecily Cardew.
“It’s very funny, fast-paced, a lot of jokes are made for jokes sake,” said director Trevor Murray ’16.
“[The play] has very universal comedy, which not only appeals to Bowdoin students, but to the broader Brunswick area as well. Being able to appeal to a large audience and bring more people into the theater at Bowdoin is a great step for Masque and Gown,” said Murray.
Although he has directed smaller scale productions since high school, this is Murray’s first full-length theater show.
“It was a process of breaking down all of the blocking and making scenes work very coherently. Scheduling times for actors was another challenge, as many Bowdoin students involve themselves in more than one extracurricular activity. Evan, a lead, also had a broken ankle for much of the rehearsal time,” said Murray.
Murray says he tried to put a new spin on the widely loved show by downplaying certain comedic elements.
“I opted for not using British accents. Also, a lot of productions of this show do it in a very high comedy, farcical sense. I have tried to ground it a little bit and bring out some of the more serious interactions, specifically in the romance between characters,” he said.
Murray credits the relative ease of the production to the actors and tech team, who he says have been cooperative and supportive in their work.
Stage manager Erin McKissick ’16 is responsible for attending rehearsals and running tech week, which entails coordinating sound and lighting and calling out cues.
“This is my second time stage managing, so I knew what I was doing more this time,” said McKissick.
Pickard Theater, the largest performance space on campus, has allowed for the staging of elaborate sets.
“Pickard is a very classic, large theater,” said Murray. “When doing a show there, you have to make sure you have the set to compensate.”
One challenge for this show was to create a set with walls large enough to visually separate the two homes and the garden.
Other set pieces add to this effect; according to McKissick, two large trellises “that fly in from the ceiling” act as a clear indicator that the action has moved to the garden.
McKissick said the overall process has been very smooth.
“One thing that can be hard is that we have a lot of people in the show who are great friends, which is awesome for bonding, but makes for a chatty group,” said McKissick. “Also, period pieces can be challenging to find the correct atmosphere on stage and to make sure everything is true to the Victorian setting.”
Evan Horwitz ’15 plays Lady Bracknell, a domineering, Victorian woman.
“I kind of butt into everyone’s business and think that I have the authority on propriety and morality,” said Horwitz of his character.
He said he is excited to play this female role.
“It is a really funny and complex play that is a great choice to show on a college campus because it is a smart comedy, which is something you don’t see as often anymore,” he said.
There has been good chemistry among cast and crew members, according to Horwitz.
“Trevor cast the show really well, so the dynamic between the characters was found really early on. We’ve had fun bringing in the technical components, costumes, sets, lighting and props as well, which has brought a new set of challenges,” he said.
Horwitz said the comedic nature of the production of this show presents a challenge for actors.
“It’s hard to find the real people within the characters. It’s been a challenge for me to find something human in this role because one of the points is to make the audience laugh. I think we have all found the people in the roles,” said Horwitz.
Overall, Murray said he believes this play is suitable for all audiences and is a true crowd-pleaser.
“This is a show with really universal comedy and everyone can find something to love about it. It is so absurd, but just so silly in a really lovable way,” he said.