Oscar Wilde’s hilarious The Importance of Being Earnest is generally a crowd pleaser, with its witty repartee and absurd scenarios. In the play, Jack Worthing leads a double life: he’s “Uncle Jack” in the country, a serious adult who manages his estate and provides for his young ward, Cecily. Jack has created, however, a reason to take frequent trips to the city: a fake, ne’er-do-well brother named Ernest — an identity he adopts when he’s partying in London. He admits this charade to his friend Algernon, who confesses a sham of his own: he’s invented an invalid friend named Bunbury who lives in the country, giving Algernon an excuse to dodge unpleasant social obligations. The two men are caught in their lies, however, when they both attempt to woo their respective lovers.
The SBCC Theatre Arts Department’s student showcase production of The Importance of Being Earnest, directed by Katie Laris, gives student actors a chance to take the reins of this classic comedy. Set in the 1960s (as opposed to 1895, when the material was written), the production includes an enjoyable soundtrack of classic ’60s hits. The updated time period illustrates that while some aspects of the show are (as expected) socially outdated, the language and the situational humor remains fresh and relatable (who among us hasn’t “gone bunburying” by inventing a reason to get out of an event?).
While the pacing of this production was a little plodding for a comedy that is most effective at quicker stride, the version I saw was a preview production, so perhaps they will work out the kinks. There were a few dropped lines that more seasoned performers might have covered more adeptly, but it was clear that actors and audiences alike were enjoying themselves. The production runs at the Jurkowitz Theatre through November 19.