Torrington Stories

The Importance of Being Earnest at Goshen

The Goshen Players will take on one of the most iconic and beloved theatrical comedies for their summer production with Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest, opening June 7th and then running for the next three weekends at the Old Town Hall.  Often hailed as Wilde’s most endearing and beloved work, the exceptionally witty nineteenth century farce examines the concepts of love and status in Victorian society.

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Having prior experience directing one act plays for the Warner Theatre and The Phoenix Stage Company, this Oscar Wilde treasure represents Wes Baldwin’s directorial debut of a full theatrical production. Baldwin is a man of many talents and has performed almost all activities both on and off stage for theater companies in Connecticut. One of the reasons that brought him to the director’s chair in Goshen was the chance to work with the Oscar Wilde’s script. “Some consider it the funniest play ever written,” says Baldwin.

The Importance of Being Earnest originally premiered on Valentine’s Day at the St James Theatre in London in 1895. The show ran for only 16 shows when Wilde’s personal life took “center stage” but the resilience of the production and the many revivals over the years proved that Oscar Wilde’s genius is enduring and timeless.

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Goshen’s production features Hal Chernoff as John (Jack) Worthington. Chernoff has an abiding love for Victorian Theatre and has performed in many Gilbert and Sullivan shows. He noted that Oscar Wilde was parodied by Gilbert and Sullivan (Patience) and it was through Gilbert and Sullivan that he was first introduced to Oscar Wilde’s work.  In The Importance of Being Earnest, Jack is the suitor to Gwendolen Fairfax, portrayed by Christiana Olsen, whose mother Lady Bracknell, played by the hilarious Eileen Epperson, has to be convinced of his respectable past.

The Goshen Players perform at the Old Town Hall which is located at one corner of the rotary at Route 4 and Route 63 in Goshen. “It’s very intimate (and) it’s usually cabaret style,“ says Eileen Epperson, adding. “…You feel as if you’re in someone’s large living room.” Epperson’s description accentuates the fact that there’s not a bad seat in the house and for many in the cast, a hallmark of a Goshen Players production is performing at this prestigious and unique locale.

To a person, putting on the production has been a delight for the cast and crew.  “I’ve never worked with a cast who are across the board as talented as this one,” says Roger Netzer who portrays the Reverend in the play. “They are remarkable. I’ve had to up my game!” The sentiment was echoed by Olivia Wadsworth, who portrays the young Cecily Cardrew. Wadsworth describes the role as “an 18 year girl who lives in the country, rather isolated from high society; she’s desperately in love with a man she’s never met and part of the humor in the show is she finally gets to meet the Earnest of her dreams”

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Todd Santa Maria portrays Gwendolen’s cousin Algernon Moncrieff. Santa Maria studied the work in college and is looking forward to acting in the production. “This was a bucket-list role,” says Santa Maria. “His (Wilde;s) use of language was so brilliant, so much fun and so truthful”.

Another cast member with experience with Oscar Wilde’s work is Ingrid Smith who portrays Miss Prism. Smith has acted in some scene studies involving Wilde’s words and loves the use of language. “I’ve see the show many times before,” says Smith. Of her character Miss Prism, Smith says “(she’s) … got a life to her and even though she comes off as very dry, she’s very funny”.

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Humphrey Rolleston portrays Merriman and Lane. The Goshen Players production of The Importance of Being Earnest will be performed June 7, 8, 14, 15, 21 and 22 at 8:00 pm and June 9 & 16 at 3:00 pm. For more information and tickets, visit www.goshenplayers.org.

Listen to Episode 111 of Nutmeg Chatter with interviews of the cast of The Importance of Being Earnest.

 

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