There are many factors such as: weather, attending friends, and reason for attendance, that go in to whether or not the audience member has a successful play going experience. Like a typical summer night in Florida, the dark sky was threatening to let forth an unforgiving storm. Being dropped off reduced much of the tension of finding a parking, however, as I arrived with friends I quickly found out just how troublesome parking close by became.
Also, considering the play was assigned, this influenced our first impression of things. It felt more necessity than enjoyment, not being explicitly stated but inferred from body language and facial expression that there were a marginal amount of other places we would rather be.
The first dispelling of these preconceived misconceptions about what my experience was going to be like came in the form of the kind ushers, letting me know where the restrooms were located and also when the doors would be open for seating. There was already a strong sense of warmth emanating from these people that made it feel like I had just stepped in to a sort of home while the storm raged on outside. Metaphorically speaking, they were my blanket and The Importance of Being Earnest would become my hot chocolate.
As the play begins, the action opens on Algernon and Jack who release a witty slew of exposition that describes the families, the love interest, their personal lives, and of course their alter-egos. Throughout the second act, it becomes clear that a recipe for disaster has been brewed when Algernon assumes the role of Earnest and visits Cecily in Jack’s country home, only to confuse the characters who already knew Jack as Earnest from the city. At the end of the second act, this all falls apart with the third act being a redemption of honor for Algernon and Jack as they regain their fair ladies’ trust and discover that Jack was indeed originally named Earnest.
The audience quickly fell in to the banter and comedy and timing of Oscar Wilde’s wit. At the opening of the play, there were far less laughs then at the end, partially because the dialogue is so highly elevated. It requires much more focus and attention to detail, a great many lines delivered only able to be picked up on because of body language or facial expression cues delivered so expertly by the actors. A particularly skillful example comes in the form of Algernon’s flirtatious remarks.
Through much of his colorful language, even if not fully understood, it can be inferred what his implications are based on the manner in which he speaks. The audience was able to feed off this energy and delight in Oscar Wilde’s smart humor. It’s always much easier to enjoy a performance when you know others are just as in to it. Large crowds of attentive viewers are preferred where one cannot hear one’s own laughter but rather focuses on the play as it is lost in the sea of other smiles and lit up eyes.
If there is any advice to be given about seeing this production, it is this: bring only one friend who shares an acute interest in either theatre or high class witty humor. This way, during intermission, discussion can be had about the course of the story and details may be cleared up about any confusing or misunderstood elements.
Overall, The Importance of Being Earnest is a strong piece that was presented by the UCF Theatre Alumni in just as powerful a manner. As soon as the show began, all notions of a stormy night with soggy feet were whisked away into Wilde’s frivolous mayhem. Its ultimately up to the performers to combat the audience’s previous “world” by transporting them into one of their own creation, an amalgamation of the playwright’s cleverness, the director’s keen eye, and the actor’s indomitable creative spirit.