The nine-member cast of Oscar Wilde’s satirical The Importance of Being Earnest:
A Trivial Comedy for Serious People, opening Thursday night at the AACI, is
keeping it simple. Black and white costumes, except for a dashing red bow tie, a
plain stage with a few props including stools and a tea set.
Sura Shachnovitz says she strove for subtle staging since the actors are
performing “in the round,” with the audience surrounding them.
clever show, which premiered in London in 1895, includes few stage entrances and
exits, so the actors, donning ruffles, extravagant hats and prim and proper
suits, are on stage nearly the whole time.
“There’s a lot going on,” says
Shachnovitz. “It’s almost like a three-way circus because there’s always
Shachnovitz chose the theater-in-the-round style to
add a new element of presentation to a play that’s been staged many
Wilde’s enduringly amusing script of multi-layered quips and
criticisms of breeding, marriage and manners in 19th-century London holds up
well under the skillful and sweetly silly performances of the J-Town Playhouse
The classic play tells the story of late-Victorian men – Algernon
Moncrieff (Josh Moss) and John “Jack” Worthing (Mory Buckman) – looking to
escape their trivial social obligations and burdensome lives, and so as a
refuge, they maintain alternate personae in the country.
to hide their alter egos and their ultimate undoing, leading to the play’s
conclusion that one must not be trivial, of “the vital importance of being
earnest,” is the heart of Wilde’s play. Along the way, the response to a
marriage proposal is dependent on Jack’s name truly being Ernest – “My ideal has
always been to love someone by the name of Ernest.
There is something
about that name that inspires absolute confidence,” says Gwendolyn Fairfax
(Lianne Ratzersdorfer). The proposal is rejected, though, because of
his unconventional background, bei found as a baby in “an ordinary handbag” –
not sophisticated enough for Fairfax or her mother Lady Bracknell, hilariously
played by Roni Schwartz, who emphasizes to the fullest her snobbish dismissals
of those deemed lower than she and insistence on the proper way to do
everything, from laughing to proposing.
Playing Cecily, Jack’s precocious
and sarcastic ward in the country, was ridiculously fun, says Sarit Brown, 21,
of her first starring role.
“I know that Cecily was meant for me. I was
meant for Cecily, for sure,” she says, adding that she identifies with her
character’s imaginative personality.
Brown, with playful brown eyes and
curls down her back, emanating her character’s charm, made aliya at the age of
five from Canada, is working toward beginning university studies next year and
played a Jet girl in Encore’s recent production of West Side
Ratzersdorfer delivers her lines as the teasing, absurd Gwendolyn
spot-on, and with excellent comedic timing.
“In matters of grave
importance, style, not sincerity, is the vital thing,” Gwendolyn says
Sarah Bronson, who plays Cecily’s tutor, Miss Prism, gives a
flirtatious performance, and will delight audiences with her exaggerated facial
Yedidya Fraiman, who plays Lane the sly butler, says he is
looking forward to making the audience laugh, especially with his one-line
zinger. Fraiman teaches English and civics at a high school near Beit
Moss and Buckman achieve the entertaining dynamic the play
demands, as they move around the stage effortlessly engaging in snappy dialogue,
nuanced glances and making ridiculous statements like “divorces are made in
heaven” and “the amount of women in London who flirt with their husbands is
scandalous!” The ensemble plays off each other with grace and impressively
mantains British accents (except for Jonathan Cohen, who plays Dr. Chausable and
already has an authentic British accent).
Rafi Poch, the play’s producer
and founder of the JTown Playhouse at the AACI, says Earnest will be the
playhouse’s second production, after the well-received Can I Really Date A Guy
Who Wears a Yarmulke, which showed over Passover and again in May, and in which
Shachnovitz played the role of the aunt.
This time around Poch recruited
the veteran playwright and literary manager, who has a degree in educational
theater from Tel Aviv University, to direct.
“It was a beautiful match,”
he says.Earnest runs June 14, June 17, June 19-21 at 8 p.m. at the AACI,
37 Pierre Koenig. For tickets and information call (02) 566-1181