When Oscar Wilde premiered his comedic masterpiece at the St. James Theatre in London, England in 1895 it carried the subtitle a trivial comedy for serious people.
With Western Canada Theatre ready to premiere the latest adaptation of The Importance of Being Earnest, artistic director Daryl Cloran and his cast want people to know that, although more than 100 years old, the play is still one for our times.
The Importance of Being Earnest is almost always staged as a three-act play, but WCT's production takes Errol Durbach's adaptation and shortens it to two, said Cloran.
However, under the direction of Johnna Wright, this version of Earnest maintains elements Durbach took from Wilde's rarely presented fourth act. And Cloran said these touch on the subject of finance and credit, timely topics given the growing household and personal debt in the world.
"It's very tight, but he's taken the bits that really make it resonate to a modern audience," he said.
Included among the cast are local actors Christopher Weddell and Kirk Smith, and they agree this spin on Earnest has a contemporary appeal.
Smith, who plays John (Jack) Worthing, one of the main characters, said Durbach provides insight into the economics of the era in which the play was written, and intersperses them throughout.
There is enough parallels to the modern economic situation that Wilde's play is relevant, he said.
"Which really brings it into a current realm," said Smith.
Weddell said Durbach took the best elements of Wilde's four-act version and created a new take on the story. Yet the text remains true to the tale people love.
"The spirit of Wilde's original has been respectfully preserved," he said.
But the foppish leads who pretend to be something they're not in order to get out of social responsibilities do have a modern appeal, said Weddell.
"They're impulsive. They're rebellious in a very witty and vivacious and youthful way. I think it's a play young people will be drawn to very quickly," he said.
"I think the Kamloops audience will recognize these people."
The Importance of Being Earnest follows a duplicitous duo of wealthy playboys who subvert late 19th century societal structures by adopting alternative personalities.
Worthing becomes Ernest when out on the town while Algernon Moncrieff invents a friend to keep him from social responsibilities.
Both end up courting ladies for whom it is important that the man each marries be named Ernest. Hijinks ensue, Oscar Wilde style.
The Kamloops presentation is a co-production between WCT and Persephone Theatre in Saskatoon. Smith and Weddell return to the roles they played during a recent six-week run in the prairie city.
All the cast members are back, said Weddell, adding it's been easy to return to the role of Rev. Canon Chasuble, who experiences some social struggles of his own.
Chasuble is attracted to Miss Laetitia Prism, but tries desperately to hide it. Yet he makes up excuses to visit her at every turn.
"He spends most of the time dancing around his infatuation with her and hiding behind the language of the church," said Weddell. "He's unable to admit his infatuation with her, which is usually quite clear to the audience."
Smith is from Kamloops, but currently lives in Vancouver. Weddell moved to Kamloops after performing here several times for Western Canada Theatre. Both appreciate being able to perform in the town they call home.
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WHAT: The Importance of Being Earnest
WHEN: Thursday, Jan. 24 until Saturday, Feb. 2
WHERE: Sagebrush Theatre
TICKETS: Kamloops Live! Box Office, www.kamloopslive.com