Santa Barbara City College transports ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’ to the 20th century
You could call it Oscar Wilde meets The Beatles.
Certainly that sets the stage for Santa Barbara City College drama students, who are performing Mr. Wilde’s “The Importance of Being Earnest” during the time of the Fab Four.
Santa Barbara City College drama students will perform the classic Oscar Wilde comedy Wednesday through Nov. 19 at the Jurkowitz Theatre on the West Campus in the 900 block of Cliff Drive.
“We decided to set in the ’60s because we wanted to hear all this great 1960s music and have people dance,” director Katie Laris told the News-Press.
Ms. Laris said she felt inspired to give the play a bit of an update after reading that pop singer Harry Styles likes to wear fashion pieces inspired by Mr. Wilde.
“We thought about bringing this to 2022 and incorporating current technology, but we decided to put this in a more innocent time,” Ms. Laris said about the choice of the early 1960s.
Drama students will be donning early 1960s clothes and hairstyles.
“The women are in these sweet 1960s dresses, and the guys are wearing plaid pants and ascots,” Ms. Laris said.
Their characters will go to parties where the music will include songs by iconic 1960s musicians such as The Beatles, the Beach Boys and Dusty Springfield.
“When you walk into this space, you’re getting this great playlist, probably every song from the 1960s you might know,” Ms. Laris said.
You can expect to hear songs such as The Beatles’ “I Wanna Hold Your Hand” and “She Loves You.”
Yeah, yeah, yeah.
But is the dialogue being rewritten? No, no, no.
Ms. Laris said the actors are still performing the funny classic as Mr. Wilde wrote it back in 1895. She praised the playwright for his wit and his use of the punny name “Earnest.”
“ ‘Earnest’ means honest and sincere, but in this play, it’s also the imaginary character that the central guy Jack, has made up,” Ms. Laris said.
In the city, Jack Worthing (played by Ben Watkins) pretends to be Earnest, and Gwendolyn Fairfax (Sydney Davidson) falls in love with him.
“She tells Jack, ‘The only thing I ever wanted to do was to marry someone named Earnest,’ ” Ms. Laris said.
In the country, Earnest is Jack’s imaginary brother, and a woman falls for him.
“All the women in this play are in love with the idea of this person named Earnest, who doesn’t exist,” Ms. Laris said.
“What makes this play timeless are the romance and the challenges of falling in love,” Ms. Laris said. “I think these issues are as relevant today as they were in 1895.
“What’s so great about this play is the characters are so memorable. Every one of the characters has a story behind them,” she said.
“Lady Bracknell (played by Blexie Brent) is a high society lady who presents a barrier to Jack getting married to her daughter,” Ms. Laris siad.
The rest of the cast consists of Matt Addeman as Lane, Augustus Woolf Muller as Algernon Moncrieff, Mary Wessely as Miss Prism, Grace Wison as Cecily Cardew, Alfred Smith as Rev. Chasuble and Luke Hamilton as Merriman.