Spring is in full bloom at Studio Theatre in Williams Lake.
With the company’s latest production — Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest — there is love in the air, flowers in abundance, women in spring dresses and a clever humour that lifts the spirit.
The story follows two bachelors who create alter egos named Ernest, to escape their lives and attempt to win the hearts of two women, who insist they can only love a man named Ernest.
“I chose this play because I actually teach it in high school in Grade 12 and I love the wittiness of it,” said Director Becky Strickland before Monday evening’s dress rehearsal. “The characters are so well-developed and rounded and there are so many layers of comedy.”
If one studies the script, more layers become apparent, but even if one hasn’t read it ahead of time, the layers are equally enjoyable, Strickland said.
“It’s a great watch and is probably the first play I ever saw on stage when I was in Grade 12. I grew up in Powell River and we went down to Vancouver to Granville Island and saw it there.”
In choosing to direct the play, Strickland had an idea of what she wanted.
“The actors that came out just all fell into place and there couldn’t be anyone else than the eight you are going to see on stage,” Strickland said. “They’ve taken all my advice and all my direction and the characters so come to life.”
Working with stage manager Sheryl-Lynn Lewis on the set design was also instrumental in helping Strickland’s vision for the play unfold.
“We have 125 metres of sheer fabric on our stage that was all hand-sewn into panels and pockets. It all moves. And my lighting guy Jeff Rankin came on and he is playing with colour.”
The time-period accurate costumes were designed by Christa Obergfell, she added.
“It’s exactly what I wanted,” Strickland said of the final result. “A lot of it is about surrounding yourself with the right people. Our group works really well together.”
Meet the actors
Val Hanet, who plays Miss Prism the governess, said the only other play she’s been in was Studio Theatre’s production of Little Women a few years ago when she portrayed Marmee.
“I love this play,” she said of why she auditioned for Earnest. “It has so much humour and so many layers of wit. It’s just a lot of fun.”
Brad Lawyrk as Dr. Chasuble, chose to act again because he hadn’t been on stage for a couple of years.
“I thought I’d go out just for something to do,” he said. “I hadn’t seen the play on stage, but had seen the movie a few times.”
Michael Diebolt plays Algernon Moncrieff and moved to Williams Lake a year ago in March from Whitehorse, Yukon. Before moving he made sure there was a theatre community.
“A friend of mine in Whitehorse encouraged me to get back into theatre there, I hadn’t done it since high school, but I’ve always loved it,” Diebolt said.
“There were a couple of plays that came up in Williams Lake and I couldn’t make the auditions, but I told myself I needed to make this one.”
His friend back in Whitehorse told him, he’d make the best Algernon.
As Gwendolen Fairfax, Marilee Andres is having a lot of fun.
She grew up in Williams Lake and acted in several local productions.
As a high school drama teacher, who recently moved back to the Cariboo this summer, she has taught The Importance of Being Earnest several times.
“It’s a thrill just to read so I thought I might as well come out and audition, never thinking I would get Gwendolen because she is amazing,” Andres said. “The language is very complex and not at all how we speak now so it has been fun to get my tongue around it and really respect the language. That’s something that’s important to me. I always make all my students learn their lines exactly.”
For Shane Tollefson, being in the play is déjà vu.
He plays the role of John Worthing, a part he played when he directed the play about 25 years ago at Columneetza when he was a student.
“It was a school project,” he recalled. “Half the class had to do The Importance of Being Earnest and the other half had to do The Glass Menagerie.”
At that time, Tollefson didn’t bother learning his lines and improvized his way through the whole thing, however, this time around he’s had to learn his lines completely, as an “atonement.”
Studio Theatre veteran Sandi Alaric, plays Lady Bracknell, a part she wanted to play for years.
“I came out for the play because Becky was directing it,” she said. “She is marvellous to work with and we’ve worked on and off together. I’ve directed her and she’s directed me — it’s this symbiotic relationship.”
Bracknell is very interesting, Alaric said.
“She comes across as quite serious, but there’s a softer side to her, and there’s also a really nasty side to her. So it’s nice to play those layers.”
For Michael Rawluk, being in a play, is what he’s been doing since the 1970s, he said, without hesitation.
He hadn’t been in Ernest before, but directed it in Prince George once.
Rawluk plays two butlers — Lane in act one and Merriman in act two.
“I love the language. It’s the wittiest comedy in the English language in an intelligent way, not slapstick,” he said.
Tara Sprickerhoff plays Cecily Cardew and said she did not know much about the play before she to the part.
“I knew it had a lot of fun roles in it and anytime something comes up like that I tend to go out for it because I love doing theatre,” Sprickerhoff said, noting it’s turned out to be one of the favourite plays she’s been in.
The play opens Wednesday, March 7 and runs Wednesdays through Saturdays, until March 24.
Show time is 8 p.m. at Studio Theatre in the old Glendale School on Mackenzie Avenue. Tickets are available at The Open Book and Kit & Kaboodle.