By Megan Perry
A warm set, fun actors and traditional costumes brought the “The Importance of Being Earnest” to life during opening night on Friday at East Los Angeles College’s P2 Proscenium Theater.
Audiences were seeing the play the minute they stepped into the house and received a program. The program usually lists the names of the characters and the names of the actors playing them, but this program remained true to the traditional time period.
Actors were listed under such names as Mr. Jaime Ramirez, Miss Stefanie Mazariegos and Mrs. John M. Gilb.
It’s interesting to see the actor Gracie Gilb listed under her husband’s name, but added to the overall theatrical experience since then women were seen as inferior in the late 1800s.
Making everything feel as if the audience members were in the late-19th century enhanced the play’s themes and motifs.
It’s a play of lies, deceit and love.
“The Importance of Being Earnest” is about a man who struggles with honesty in his love and personal life, which eventually blow up in his face.
Oscar Wilde’s wittiness is seen in the title of the play, as he makes a play-on-words with the word earnest which means honest.
The setting and costumes were done beautiful, especially the scenery in the second act.
The second act was set in an exquisite, hand-painted garden at a manor in the countryside. The background flats were full of detailed red, pink and white roses that gave the feel of being in a real meadow.
Jessica Hansen is the costume, makeup and hair designer. She kept to the 19th-century conservative impression, which stuck to that traditional feeling.
The women in the play wore ankle-length skirts, button-up shirts, corsets and fashionable hats.
Floral prints flooded the costume fabric, along with everything else in the play. Men wore suits, neckties and various types of hats such as bowlers and top hats.
Most men walked around with a cane or a pocket watch.
The costumes gave the audience a feel for the characteristics of people in Wilde’s aesthetic world.
Living at a manor in the country, John Worthing is a sneaky, sly character who will do and say whatever it takes to get his way.
Ramirez played Worthing the way Worthing should be played.
Worthing, ironically, lied for years about having a younger brother named Ernest, who lives in the city.
When he’s in the city, he pretends to be Ernest.
This charade he plays for years catches up to him eventually, which is fun for the audience to watch unfold.
Wilde couldn’t ask for a better actor for the part.
It was his slicked back black hair and skinny black mustache that gave him that old-fashioned feeling, which coupled well with the character.
It was the little quirks that Ramirez added to the character that really brought Worthing out.
One quirk he played was his pronouncing of the letter P.
He added emphasis to it, the audience might want to wear a raincoat when watching.
It made it the play quite enjoyable, because Ramirez made it his own.
Wilde didn’t write in the play that he wanted to emphasis the ‘P’ in every word, yet Ramirez felt it was what the character needed to come to life.
He and Peter Mendoza, who played Algernon Moncrieffe, interacted well with one another.
Mendoza’s character was a definite contrast to Ramirez’s character, which could be seen throughout the play.
Moncrieffe was a charming, witty, light-hearted character, who didn’t let too many things trouble him, which seemed to be a personal reflection of Wilde himself.
Worthing was a frantic, mischievous man, who was either plotting a scheme or worrying about the scheme blowing up in his face.
“Truth isn’t what you tell an extraordinary woman like Gwen…,” Worthing said as he concocted a plan to win over the woman he loves.
Moncrieffe was always selfishly looking for a way to keep himself entertained.
“Three is company; two is not,” Moncrieffe said as he looked for an activity to entertain him.
Unlike Worthing, whenever Moncrieffe stepped onto stage, it was with a slow strut.
He always kept his cool, unlike Worthing,who was always anxious about anything that happened.
Problems didn’t seem to affect Moncrieffe, yet he actually seemed to enjoy when things went wrong.
It was entertaining to him.
Mendoza is versatile actor, and can play any part well in anything he does, so he played this part superbly.
The ending was the most interesting part with a twist that wasn’t expected.
The third act made the entire play worth sitting through, since the drama finally was brought to light and the audience could finally see what the actors built up to.
Everything up to this point was explanation and background for what happened in the third act, and gave everything the audience learned some context.
Overall, it was a beautiful play with an interesting premise.