Joe Spady as Algnernon Moncrieff, left, and Devin Boyle as Jack Worthing rehearse a scene from the Kenai Performers’ production of “The Importance of Being Earnest” on Wednesday, May 4, 2022, in Kalifornsky, Alaska. (Photo courtesy Kenai Performers)

Joe Spady as Algnernon Moncrieff, left, and Devin Boyle as Jack Worthing rehearse a scene from the Kenai Performers’ production of “The Importance of Being Earnest” on Wednesday, May 4, 2022, in Kalifornsky, Alaska. (Photo courtesy Kenai Performers)

‘A trivial show for very serious people’

Kenai Performers takes on Oscar Wilde’s “The Importance of Being Earnest”

The Kenai Performers are trying their hand at 19th-century farce with “The Importance of Being Earnest,” which debuts Thursday.

Amy Burton, the director of the play, said she has wanted to do the piece since before the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Because who doesn’t need a good laugh right after the last two years?” she said.

The play, written by Oscar Wilde in the late 1800s, follows characters through Victorian London as they ironically explore themes of honesty and truth. As Burton put it, it’s “a trivial show for very serious people.”

“Oscar Wilde is very funny. He has a lot of witty remarks in this show about life in general, about intellectuals, about high society,” Burton said. “So it’s all kind of in this fun little show that if you really were to analyze, (you) would probably not come to much except pure and fun entertainment.”

Terri Zopf-Schoessler plays Lady Bracknell, the leading female character of the show, whose primary concern is people’s appearances.

“She’s a bucket list for me,” Zopf-Schoessler said. “I taught AP English for years and always did this play and I think it’s hysterically funny.”

To her, the comedic element of the show has been enjoyable.

“We say the most ridiculous things, absolutely seriously,” Zopf-Schoessler said. “And the whole essence of comedy is the gap between how one sees oneself and how the audience sees you. And these are big gaps.”

Joe Spady has also been a fan of the play for a long time. He plays Algernon Moncrieff, Lady Bracknell’s trivial nephew.

“It’s a character that I’ve been obsessed with for well over a decade,” Spady said.

He watched the show first while he was in college and said the opportunity to audition for a role this spring was “incredible.”

The language, Spady said, has been the hardest to master. The dialogue contains a lot of extended sentence structure and British vernacular.

“It’s just now that we’ve really gotten to that place that we’re getting this word perfect, that we’re able to enjoy this crazy language and the world Oscar has invited for us to live in,” he said.

The play, with its three acts and three set changes, debuts at 7 p.m. on Thursday. The show will run for the next two weekends, Thursday through Sunday, with Thursday through Saturday shows at 7 p.m. and Sunday matinees at 2 p.m.

Tickets are available on kenaiperformers.org or at the door. The Performers are also accepting donations at the playhouse behind the Subway on Kalifornsky Beach Road to retrofit the building’s electrical system.

Reach reporter Camille Botello at camille.botello@peninsulaclarion.com.

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