November 20th, 2008


Last night I went to see Syd perform in The Importance of Being Earnest. It is a great play, but a bad choice for a high school production.

Wit depends on timing. When the actors are young, dealing with unfamiliar language, and not entirely dedicated to the proposition that they have to learn their lines cold, the wit does not sparkle in the same way. It has been a long while since I have read the play and a shorter while since I have seen it produced, but it seems that some scenes were abridged. The cast did not attempt to carry British accents, which is probably, on the whole, a good thing, since the prop crew was unclear on what kind of muffin would be used at tea.

Some parts are easier to carry than others. Lady Bracknell, for example, just requires supreme self-confidence, a quality readily found in actors still in the comfortable sphere of school productions. Cecily, as a silly young girl, is an easy part for a silly young girl, although she has a somewhat better vocabulary than the current version. I thought that the small part of Lane was impervious to unfortunate acting, but I was wrong. The actor entirely blew one of the funniest lines in the play, in which he remarks that cucumbers were unavailable at the market “even for ready money,” which sums up the entire profligate existence of Algernon.

Syd, as Merriman, the country house butler, was exceptionally stony and disapproving of the antics of the other characters. It was a good, basic performance, although the backstage drama seems to have seeped into his work. He’s so fed up that he refuses to audition, at this point, for the spring play.

I am going to see the show twice more. We’ll see if nuances develop.