For its latest fall experimental production, the Yale Dramatic Association will stage a classic British comedy in a timeless, dream-like world.
“The Importance of Being Earnest” by Oscar Wilde opens Thursday night at the Yale Repertory Theater. The show is one of two experimental productions the Dramat is staging this semester, the other of which was Arthur Miller’s “All My Sons.” Miranda Rizzolo ’15, the director of “Earnest,” says she hopes that the production will surprise audience members with its lack of adherence to historical accuracy in its design.
“I want to create a whimsical storybook that is free from the restrictions of Victorian England,” Rizzolo said.
The play’s storyline centers on the characters Jack Worthing, his ward Cecily and his love interest Gwendolen Fairfax. While Jack attempts to court Gwendolen, their relationship is complicated by Worthing’s fictional, seemingly perfect alter ego, Ernest, who becomes the target of Cecily and Gwendolen’s desires. Adam Lohman ’18, who plays Jack, said he sees his character as a serious, grounded man. He noted that playing this role is a departure from his acting background, which has mostly consisted of musical theater productions.
Kate Pincus ’15, the show’s producer, said that the top priority for her and Rizzolo was to make the production process a collaborative venture between all members of the ensemble.
“We tried to create a synthesis between production staff and cast that you don’t always see,” Pincus said. “We had production staff in the rehearsal room talking about their visions, and the cast was able to discover their characters in conjunction with the designers.”
Lohman and Lauren Modiano ’17, who plays Gwendolen, agreed with Pincus, adding that the opportunity for collaboration allowed them to experiment with the play’s script as well as with props and costumes.
Rizzolo said she envisioned the production resembling a timeless childhood story rather than a period piece. For intsnace, the actors will not speak in British accents. She and Pincus highlighted the way in which the show’s set and technical design allowed them to create the world they imagined.
One choice that Modiano said may surprise audiences is Eric Sirakian ’15 playing the part of Lady Bracknell. Both males and females have played the part in the past, Pincus said, adding that she and Rizzolo also adopted gender-blind casting during the Yale Drama Coalition’s August casting cycle. Pincus said that Sirakian has embodied what it is like to be a woman both now and in Wilde’s world.
“It’s so appropriate because Wilde’s work is about playing with gender roles and societal conceptions of identity,” Rizzolo said.
“The Importance of Being Earnest” will close on Oct. 11.