Story by Ahmad Thomas / Contributing Writer
Upon entering Joywood Cumberland Presbyterian Church, there was an intriguing intimate mood instantly established. “The Importance of Being Earnest” was performed at the Joywood Cumberland Presbyterian Church in Murfreesboro, Tn. Arena theatre involves a manipulated audience space, where actors are visible from all sides. While this play did take the archetypal “theatre-in-the-round” set up, it did immerse the audience into the plot as if they were an existing inhabitant of that world. “The Importance of Being Earnest” was performed by players of Consider This, a community theatre troupe based in Rutherford County and starred some of MTSU’s own staff, like Bill Levine, a professor in the English Department who played the part of the Rev. Canon Chasuble. Consider This, Inc. is an organization that puts on performances, offers class, and gets the Rutherford County community involved in all things theatre related.
The scenery in the play was multi-layered and aesthetically pleasing, the seating was comfortable and plentiful and the players on set utilized the entirety of their workspace. There was a noticeable effort put into creating as realistic of a set as possible, even the outdoor scenes were well done. On the outside of the estate there was vegetation lining some wooden lattice in the back near the actors’ entrance, there was a sizable marble victorian fountain in the middle with running water, as well decor on the outdoor seating. Inside of the mansion the upholstery was well done and dated to the time period. While these are all very welcoming additions that make attending performance here as a contender for date night, unfortunately theatre is more about more than the feeling you get in the first three minutes of walking into the room.
Consider This did much to engage the audience into the world of 1895 London. From the room decor to the dresses worn by the women and the suits on the men, there is something to be said of the believability of the actors on set. Most of the costuming was fairly simplistic in regards to the fashion of the time period, and rightfully so. The majesty of the mood set by what the actors wore was in the fact on of the most exquisite parts of the production. It is as if they knew just how much distinction to put into each individual’s wardrobe in order to make them stand out from the other characters in the play and still maintain an amount of sincerity to their own motivations. As far as costuming and setting goes, for the space utilized it was an very impressive display.
At times, there were long awkward pauses of silence, and while some of the players did their best to push through, an attentive viewer could catch their mistakes. There was also a stiffness about the performance, as the male characters tended to play it safe rather than pushing the boundaries of the characters.It would be unfair to say the character choices were necessarily off-putting, but if anyone was pursuing a serious career in theatre they would need to do more to distinguish themselves as an earnest player. The character of Cecily, played by Jessica Wells, felt a bit redundant and predictable as she delivered many of her lines in similar fashion. Lady Bracknell, played by Monica Davis, waxed and waned in the comfort in her lines, but overall gave a sound impression of a stern mother.
Thomas Esson made commendable efforts to leave the realm of “actor” and dig a bit deeper in the psychology of Jack Worthing and his presentation was a valuable effort in characterizing. While there isn’t necessarily a standout element besides the setting of the performance in the play, there were high points that elicited some laughs and emotion from the audience. There was a scene between the brothers plagiarizes the name of “Ernest”, and they had both just been discovered by their soon to be wives. After the women had stormed off Jack and Algernon (the two brothers) engaged in quite a comedic display of banter and petty squabbles you would expect from children. While the humour wasn’t necessarily sophisticated, it was the sort of comic relief we as an audience enjoyed.
“The Importance of Being Earnest” is far from greatness, but is by no stretch of the imagination a bad show. There is potential in the cast and the work ethic between cast and crew and extras seems to be considerable. If you are in the Rutherford County area, I suggest checking it out. The show concludes this weekend with performances on October 27 and 28.
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