'Importance of Being Earnest,' sure to provoke the mind as well as a chuckle, opens Thursday

A student-led production of "The Importance of Being Earnest" will bring comedy and satire to Tempe's Lyceum Theatre this weekend

Laugh your way back into the 1890s with ASU Theatre and Shakespeare Club's performances of "The Importance of Being Earnest," running from Nov. 17-20.

"The Importance of Being Earnest," Oscar Wilde's best known play, is a satirical farce and a social commentary on the Victorian class system of the 19th century. The play endures, still finding wide circulation in class curriculum and spawning several movie adaptations.

The well-loved wit and splendor of "Earnest" will be gracing the Tempe campus's Lyceum Theatre this weekend. This production is completely student-led, featuring a mix of actors from the Theatre and Shakespeare Club and the greater University community. Director Courtney Marnick, a business marketing senior and also the president of the ASU Theatre Shakes club, is directing the play as her senior creative project for Barrett, the Honors College.

The actors have been hard at work since late August, rehearsing together every other day and on weekends. The production is unique in that it features a dual cast — an understudy cast as well as the main set of actors — who have been working in tandem to master the script. The understudy cast will perform in the Saturday matinee and step in for the main actors if conflict arises on the other production dates.

This production of "Earnest" seeks to bring some public attention back to classical theater in a time when contemporary plays steal the spotlight. Just because the production wants to preserve the classical brilliance of the play doesn't mean it has nothing to offer a modern audience, however.

"The rhetoric of 'Earnest' is so understandable, and it's pretty funny, too," Marnick said. "It really takes you back to what it was like to live in 1895 — It's a little piece of history we all get to enjoy."

Theater freshman Molly Bishop, cast in the role of Cecily's understudy, said she's excited to have such a great production be her first performance as an ASU student. Bishop said she thinks the entire cast collaborates wonderfully, and the challenge of working with two casts simultaneously will ultimately result in a very strong, resounding performance.

Bishop also said she thinks the unique and compelling characterization in the play will be a big draw for audiences.

"I've never played anyone like Cecily before," Bishop admitted. "She's very romantic, a little naive and just a very traditional ingenue. She's a wonderful character."

Jonathan Gonzales, who is in the main cast for Jack and the vice president of the ASU Theatre Shakes club, will be performing in all productions due to scheduling conflicts with his understudy. Gonzales also spoke to the incredible strength of the cast and said he strongly urges every student, regardless of background, to see it if possible.

"It's extremely well-written — that's a given, considering it's an Oscar Wilde play — and an excellent example of what classical theater can do," Gonzales said. "We have an amazing cast sure to put on a great performance of a rather funny show."

Sound like something you can't miss? Earnest will have five different productions over four days, and student tickets are just $3. Get the full scoop, along with tickets and exact showtimes, on the play's event page

Haven't read "Earnest", but would like to before seeing the play? Don't run off to Hayden just yet — the play is in the public domain, and you can read it for free from the comfort of your dorm right here.

Reach the reporter at cagoldin@asu.edu or follow @auruming on Twitter.

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