This afternoon was my visit to the University of Maryland's Clarice Smith Center for the performing arts. It's both the home of the University's Drama/Dance/Choral/Instrumental and Fine Arts schools and a host to all manner of traveling performances. I have seen the students perform "Our Town," I have seen Yo Yo Ma and the SIlkroad Ensemble perform in the first tour, and I have seen the great actor Denis O'Hare perform the one-man show "An Iliad" there. It's 5 minutes from my home and I don't take nearly as much of an advantage of it as I should.
Today it was the Drama Department's turn with a production of "The Importance of Being Ernest". This is one of those plays that is perfect for College students to do. It's so well conceived that it requires only a minimum of talent to be entertaining. Which isn't to say that the young actors didn't have talent...but perhaps what they had more of is potential. And this is exactly what you expect from a University Drama Department.
In keeping with the current fad of cross gender casting, the role of the male lead, John "Jack" Worthington was plays by a girl, and the role of the dowager Lady Bracknell was played by a boy. Both with great aplume! And so once you enter into the silly-world this creates, over-the-top farsicle melodramic and dandyish presentations of the characters becomes the world in which you are now invited. Indeed, it captures a certain time-honored, time period sensitive recreation of the original essence of the play. And bottomlining it--it was fun! The students had fun, and I had fun, too!
The sets were very interesting and well conceived. I was able to the get a snapshot of the open act. For Act II, the curtains fell away to reveal a lush garden with a swing, and then Act III, lost all of the greenery and flowers for books and a library in the mansion. The transitions were very impressive.