A rose by any other name would smell as sweet, but what about a fiancé? This question was addressed in Washington-Lee High School’s production of “Ernest in Love” by Anne Croswell.
This delightful diddy was a musical adaptation of Oscar Wilde’s classic comedy, “The Importance of Being Earnest.”
The story begins in London with wealthy aristocrat Jack Worthing (Thomas Brigham) revealing to his equally affluent friend, Algernon Moncrieff (Mario Samayoa) that he in fact lives a double life. In the country, Worthing owns an elegant estate and is the guardian of an exuberant young Cecily Cardew (Jenny Cook). Worthing escapes the tedium of country living by traveling to London to visit his younger “wicked” brother, “Ernest.” Truth be told, Ernest is not a person, but merely the playboy persona that Jack embodies during his London visits. As “Ernest”, Jack has fallen in love with an animated aristocrat, Gwendolyn Fairfax (Elizabeth Tedder), much to the dismay of her snobby, class-conscious mother, Lady Bracknell (Julia Layton). Hilarity ensues when Algernon, upon hearing of the pretty Cecily and her fascination with the “wicked Ernest,” decides to travel to Worthing’s country estate and take on the persona of “Ernest” in an attempt to woo the young Cecily.
The actors did an impressive job of presenting the show in the melodramatic style of Oscar Wilde’s writing. Their physical movements, accents, and over-the-top acting worked perfectly in the style of this period piece.
As Jack/Ernest, Thomas Brigham wowed the audience with his crisp characterization and rich voice that was simply “Perfection.” As his love interest Gwendolyn, Elizabeth Tedder kept the crowd in stitches with her vast vocal variety and larger-than-life gestures. Similarly, Julia Layton as Lady Bracknell left the audience humming after her brilliant number “A Handbag is Not a Proper Mother.” However, it was the clever comedic timing and hilarious facial expressions of Mario Samayoa as Algernon that stole the show during “The Muffin Song.” As his love interest, Cecily Cardew, Jenny Cook captured the role of the young ingénue and with her bright voice added delicate mannerisms.
The technical aspects of the show also added to the 19th century atmosphere. The costumes designed by Joan Cummins and the lighting design by Liz Burman were quite effective.
All in all, Washington-Lee can take pride in their smart and upbeat production. They left the audience with songs in their heads and smiles on their faces.
(Cappies is a high school critics and awards program involving 50 schools in the Virginia, Maryland and D.C. areas.)