University Theatre, the production arm of the department of theatre and film studies, will present Oscar Wilde’s masterpiece, The Importance of Being Earnest. Widely considered one of the great works of English-language drama, Earnest is a scathingly funny, Victorian-era satire that focuses on country dandy Jack Worthing and the double life he leads as ”Ernest” when looking for love in the city.
The Importance of Being Earnest will run Feb. 16-26 at the Seney-Stovall Chapel. Show times are 8 p.m. on Feb. 16-19 and 22-26 and 2:30 p.m. on Feb. 20. Tickets are $12 for regular admission and $10 for UGA students with valid ID, and may be purchased at the University Theatre box office in the Fine Arts Building, open weekdays, noon-5 p.m. Patrons may make reservations by calling 542‑2838.
The Importance of Being Earnest was an artistic breakthrough for Wilde, something between self-parody and a deceptively flippant commentary on the genre of melodrama. It is part satire and part intellectual farce that features the uniquely Wildean character of the “dandy,” a young man who is obsessed with his looks but is nonetheless deeply moral. The character of the dandy was often a stand-in for Wilde himself-a witty, overdressed, self-styled philosopher who speaks in epigrams and paradoxes, ridicules the cant and hypocrisy of society’s moral arbiters, and self-deprecatingly presents himself as trivial, shallow and ineffectual.
Third-year M.F.A. candidate in playwriting David A. Pollack will direct Earnest. “Wilde’s play is all about these ‘shoulds,’ all about the disguises and masks we wear in order to fit in with those around us,” he says. Scathing social commentary aside, it is also a comedy, and Pollack finds a lot to be entertained by: “Its wit, its candor, its unforgiving look at the world, and Wilde’s unblinking love of these characters at the same time he sits in judgment of them.”
University Theatre will stage Pollack’s own final thesis project, his original play, Cures for Everything, in late March.
Maggie Surovell, a third-year M.F.A. candidate in acting, is playing the role of Jack’s love interest, Gwendolen Fairfax, as her final thesis project. “The issue of social masks and false impressions has always been relevant. Just because someone gives you a nice smile does not mean that they are nice or even that they like you,” she says. “The text is witty and sophisticated.”
Jennifer Pool, a third-year M.F.A. candidate in theatrical design and technology, is using the costume design for Earnest, her own thesis project, to comment on the absurd social restraints on the characters. “I am trying to use the costumes to set the show in a specific period in the past (circa 1904),” says Pool, “and using color to help define the absurd and repressive city vs. country conflict.”