This September, the Covenant College Theatre Department presents political dissident and playwright Vaclav Havel’s “Protest,” a play revealing what it means to act with integrity versus hypocrisy.Read More
*For full effect, one is advised to read this review in one’s most preposterously pompous British accent*
Who is Ernest, and why is it so important to be him? In Covenant’s production of Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest, whoever bears the name of Ernest, intentionally spelled differently than in the play’s title, is promised a happily engaged ending, but the cast of characters will have some trouble before the true Ernest is discovered.
The lead characters are a pair of wealthy friends ready to settle down into matrimony at the play’s start: Algernon, carefree and always hungry, and Jack, who lives a double life and goes by “Ernest” while in town. These characters are portrayed by two of Covenant theater’s veteran actors, Jonathan Austin (‘18) and William Darby (‘18), respectively. At the beginning of the first act, Jack has decided to propose to Algernon’s cousin, the opinionated Gwendolyn, played by Ana Gresham (‘19) in one of her first major roles at Covenant. Before the end of the second act, Algernon has determined to marry Jack’s imaginative young ward Cecily, portrayed by Caroline Sawyer (‘20) in her Covenant theater debut. The confusion over just who is Ernest is further complicated over the course of the play by Will Payne (‘20) as an unforgettable Lady Bracknell; Matthias Overos (‘19) as the country vicar Dr. Chasuble; Emily Brauer (‘21) as the absent-minded governess Miss Prism; and Mark Davis (‘20) playing the two separate characters of the heavily beset upon butlers, Lane and Merriman.
Throughout the unlikely twists and turns of the story, the cast repeatedly encounters the question of what role truth plays in happiness. Are those who carelessly own up to the truth the happy ones? Or do those who artfully avoid inconvenient truths find happiness? Or perhaps the people who have the power to manipulate the truth to fit their wishes are those destined to have a happy ending.
Wilde's play is a classic for good reason; his dialogue is witty, bitingly satirical, and full of interlocking metaphors and running jokes. The script is versatile enough to be interpreted in several ways, but this production’s director, Professor Camille Hallstrom, has chosen to take the play in an over-the-top outrageous direction rather than a dry satirical one. This is perhaps most evident in the final act’s long-awaited revelation of Jack’s origins, where Darby discovers the preposterous truth about his name and birth with sincere belief, as opposed to an alternate interpretation of the play where Jack arranges the happy ending for himself.
As a result, the actors’ execution of their roles and lines is much larger than life, with their skipping, stomping, and lounging all impossible to miss. By the end of the play, the audience is quite familiar with each characters’ facial expressions of shock, surprise, displeasure, and amusement. Moreover, the cast adopted British accents for their roles. Sawyer’s delightfully exaggerated rolled r’s and Davis’s Jeeves-like mannerisms followed by a German accent add to the hilarity of the play excellently.
The character who best embodies the over-the-top spirit of the production is Payne as Lady Bracknell, a role traditionally played by male actors which makes it all the more hilarious. When Payne enters a scene as the dominating matriarch, he instantly commands the scene, all the more so because his hat and heels make him physically larger than the rest of the cast. His voice has the greatest range of depth and volume in the show, and viewers cannot help but enjoy Payne’s performance.
Lady Bracknell is enhanced all the more by Payne’s elaborate costume, complete with a corset, bustle, and massive hat, which, along with all the other costumes, were designed and crafted by Courtney McKenzie (‘18) as part of her Senior Integration Project. Color is an integral part of McKenzie’s work, with couples paired by the shade of their waistcoats or jackets and dresses: Algernon and Cecily in pink, Jack and Gwendolyn in purple, Dr. Chasuble and Miss Prism in green, and Lady Bracknell standing alone in her dark navy dress with blue ribbons in her hat. McKenzie also indicated to the audience which is the stronger-willed partner in each couple by costuming these characters in deep hues. Gwendolyn, Algernon, and Dr. Chasuble wear darker, richer colors than their partners, and Lady Bracknell wears the darkest of all.
Amanda English (‘18) also worked on the show as part of her S.I.P., acting as Technical Director. In this role, English ensured each aspect of the production was completed in a timely manner and met the director’s standards. Although the piles of paperwork involved remain unseen by audiences, Earnest’s sets, lights, and sound all worked together seamlessly thanks to English’s guidance. Together with the set crew, who completely rearranged the stage during each of the show’s two intermissions, McKenzie and English’s work made the play a pleasure for the eyes as well as one’s sense of humor.
It is no wonder Covenant’s Theater Department chose Wilde’s most famous play to start off this spring’s theater program, as his droll script lends itself excellently to a cast as comedic as this one. By introducing some welcome new talent and allowing seniors’ talents to shine, this production of The Importance of Being Earnest is all-around “right as a trivet.”
This spring, the Covenant community can anticipate three performances by the Theatre Department: The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde, which is already well underway in terms of production; Peter/Wendy by Jeremy Bloom, which will be directed by Abigail DeGraaf (‘18); and a new tradition unfolding at Covenant, which will invite any member of the student body to partake in a showcase of student talent, regardless of background or experience.Read More
Two weeks ago, some friends and I had the opportunity to attend the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga’s production of Silent Sky, directed by Gaye Jeffers. Written by Lauren Gunderson, the play is a dramatization of the inspiring story of nineteenth-century astronomer and mathematician Henrietta Leavitt. The show proved to be a thought-provoking biography of a woman who fought for her place in the universe, and I am glad that U.T.C. offered their stage to such a compelling play.Read More
Covenant’s theater and music departments have come together to create a memorable rendition of the classic tale of Don Quixote with their performance of Man of La Mancha. But the production may raise more questions than it answers.Read More
The theater department has once again brought a somber, thought-provoking play to Covenant’s stage with their recent production of Consumption by Courtney Baron.In the span of an hour and fifteen minutes, four characters in four different parts of the country are united in a meditative dream state as they each suffer the final stages of consumption (now called tuberculosis) together.Read More
The 19th century is coming to a close. An ambitious nurse, a young man of privilege, a wandering preacher, and an Appalachian farm girl living states away from each other seem to have nothing in common but their youth and a bone-rattling cough—yet, miraculously, they share the same fever dreams.Read More
The Glass Menagerie plays April 7, 8, and 21 at 8:00 p.m. and 22 at 2:30 p.m. in the Sanderson Hall auditorium on the Covenant College campus.Read More
In a society plagued with the disease of necessary innovation around every corner, it is understandable why the new musical comedy Something Rotten has enthused audiences.Read More
Covenant College’s production of Mr. Pim Passes By premiered this past weekend on Friday, February 17, 2017.Read More
Most of us fondly remember a time when we followed A.A. Milne’s classic characters of Pooh Bear and his friends through the Hundred Acre Wood. What we may not know is that Milne was also an accomplished playwright.Read More
Covenant College’s production of William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, entertained audiences with its fast-paced action and complex characterization on November 11, 12, 18 and 19.Read More
This November, Covenant College’s Theatre Department promises to enliven Shakespeare’s most famous tragedy in a production that roots itself in the timeless text, but invites the audience to interact with the story in new and evocative ways.Read More
This past Friday night, students, faculty, and Chattanooga residents arrived at Sanderson 215 for the opening night of the Covenant College Theatre Department’s The Bald Soprano, written by Eugène Ionesco and directed by Prof. Camille Hallstrom.Read More
The Bald Soprano [is] kind of like a game of mad-libs—that’s one way to see it.Read More
The acclaimed avant garde comedy, The Bald Soprano, will make a brief appearance on the Covenant College stage this 2016-2017 season, ripping tired tropes into a confetti of non sequiturs and nonsensical hilarity.Read More
The play revitalizes the familiar tussle between logic and emotion, mismatched lovers, and manipulative family members in the timeless spirit of the novel, with new faces and a few new quips as well.
Through a collection of varied scenes and musical scores, The Morning After pushes sexuality—often one of the most taboo and yet most critical of topics—out into the spotlight.Read More
The play, a sci-fi thriller based on H.G. Well’s novel, The Island of Dr. Moreau, addresses the fears that arose with Darwinism and scientific innovation at the turn of the 20th century.Read More