The Importance of Being Earnest: A Review

In times of trouble, life leaves a person with two choices – working their way through the problem, or working their way around it. A significant number of people would select the latter, as it may appear that along this path, the grass is greener. Soon enough, however, one finds that dry patches begin to appear along the path.

Then again, if it’s meant to be, it will be. The Importance of Being Earnest, performed by one of Manipal’s best dramatics associations, Dramanon, was a fitting testament to this theory.

On a Sunday evening, the Syndicate Golden Jubilee Hall, having been witness to numerous plays, concerts and performance arts in times past, was all set to host yet another spectacle.
An enthusiastic audience had already lined up outside the premises, in anticipation of what promised to be a noteworthy experience.Those present at the venue, donning the black t-shirts of the dramanon family, were visibly excited and confident even as a tinge of nervousness lay bare behind the looks on their faces.

The 700-capacity hall was packed to the rafters with the excited audience staring at the stage, waiting patiently for the play to begin. Begin it did, with a wonderfully executed bit of comedy from the lead actor, performing as Algernon, who was arguably the best performer on the night. His character, along with that of the lead role of Jack, was made known to the audience. Jack wished to be married to Gwendolyn, the cousin of Algernon.
Algernon however, would reveal a number of lies “Jack” had told others, including the fact that his real name was in fact Ernest. To receive Gwendolyn’s hand in marriage, he was soon left to have to speak to her mother, the aunt of Ernest, Augusta.

Following their awkward conversation, the character of Gwendolyn was soon brought forward, as she declared her intentions to be married to a man of the name “Ernest”. This is the name Jack went by in the town. As he began to propose to her, a disgusted Augusta reappeared, in refusal. Her anger and distaste for his character was excellently portrayed at this stage.
Moving on, the story moved over to the country, where a young Cecily was introduced, along with her teacher Miss Prism.

Algernon would surprisingly arrive at the scene, pretending to be “Ernest”. He would soon peak the interests of Cecily. On the other side of the house, quite ironically, Jack himself appeared
to miss prism and who appeared to be a love interest to her, Canon Chasuble, to inform them of the death of his ‘brother Ernest’. The hilarious nature of this scene and those that followed left the audience laughing out of their chairs.

Algernon and Jack would soon have an awkward confrontation, where both were in pretence of character, making for an amusing scene. Algernon and Cecily would soon be left alone, leading to Cecily herself stating her desire to marry a man of the name ‘Ernest’. Algernon would now propose to her, only for her to reveal they’d been engaged for three months, almost exposing his identity. That, however, made for the most entertaining moment of the evening, as Gwendolyn arrived asking for Earnest. A comical argument broke out between her and Cecily, over the identity of the true Ernest. Little did they know that Ernest never existed.

The two girls were both innocent, yet easily bamboozled by the affection they had for their lovers. Regardless of the entire situation, they still wished for their marriages with the two (non)’Ernest’ boyfriends. The actors here well and truly seemed to have embraced their storyline characters, almost as though it represented them in real life. Augusta would return once more, boiling over as she saw Cecily with Algernon. Her facial expressions were absolutely priceless. She had her head turned around entirely as Jack made a big claim about Cecily’s wealth, and soon she seemed to approve their relationship. Jack himself denied consent, being Cecily’s ward, which was an interesting turn of events. He would only agree to reverse his stance if Augusta did the same for his own affair with Gwendolyn. Tit for tat, only too familiar in the modern day world, a perfect example was beautifully portrayed in this production.

 

The not so pious Canon Chasuble would make an appearance to perform a christening of “Earnest” , which he soon got word was not to happen. This made him gladly announce that he was off to meet Miss Prism. As is seen at this juncture, though Chasuble only makes sporadic appearances throughout the play, his statements have a deep effect on the consequences of it. He plays his hunour and his partial seriousness to perfection. Augusta is alarmed by the mention of the name Prism.

Inevitably, Prism and Augusta have a confrontation , leading to the ultimate discovery that Jack was in fact the long lost son of Augusta’s sister and brother by marriage. Amazingly, it was revealed that Jack, in reality, was named after his father, Ernest. Inadvertently, all of his lies had in fact been the truth.

This entire scenario was wonderfully improvised and executed by all the actors, while the expressions on the faces of all the actors in all the different situations they exhibited were priceless. It almost appeared as if they were portraying a situation from their own lives. As with almost any other story, the final scene was a display of the two couples, as well as Prism and Chasuble, with the clichèted ending , standing arm in arm. There could hardly have been a more apt ending , however, than Jack stating “today I have truly realized the importance of being E(a)rnest.

This was one of the many wonderful wordplays that the audience witnessed at the event. Towards the end of the play, the performers were met with a standing ovation and endless befitting applause.

Besides the aforementioned usage of
satire and solemnity alike, the dialogues were brilliantly crafted. Mention would also have to be made for the emotions instilled into the play and indirectly into the minds of the audience by the actors. It can be argued, however, that some scenes in the play were quite predictable. That being said, the timings on all the scenes were executed to perfection. The background display on most occasions didn’t entirely delve into the situation and perhaps could have done with some more intricacies.

The appearances of the characters made it very simple to distinguish their ages. Overall, besides the excellent performance delivered by the actors on stage, the entire event itself was very well managed by the dramanon team , who managed to finish the entire event at a punctual time and within the specified duration.

While movies are entertaining to watch and require plenty of effort to make, an argument can be made for how equally difficult it can be to perform a play , with no halts in between and hardly any time for a change of scenes, yet still the fact that it is just as amusing to witness one of them as it is to be at a movie theatre for the same duration.

It is unfortunate that such an event only occurs once or twice a year because of all the effort that goes into making it.That being said, this is one writer who was fortunate enough and extremely pleased to have been present at the occasion.

Clevon Peris for MTTN

 

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