If you’re looking for an original approach to a classic, here’s the show for you: it’s a unique version of Oscar Wilde’s famous 19th century comedy of manners, The Importance of Being Earnest. The production is reverse gender-cast, with men playing women’s roles, and women playing the part of men.
For our second interview with the cast, let’s hear from the talented James (Jim-Bob) Williams:
Q: Tell us about The Importance of Being Earnest.
James: One of the classics of the English language. Delightfully silly, poking fun at societal conventions of 1895 - and still relevant today.
Q: Why did you want to tackle this show?
James: After eight productions playing gruff old men, I wanted to be a gruff old woman. Also, I owed (director) Patrick Felton a favour.
Q: Tell us about the character you play.
James: Miss Prism is a governess with a secret in her past. She has a measure of respectability now, but she was wild in younger and happier days. Likely a suffragette who engaged in violent demonstrations and also an aspiring writer of bodice-rippers… until she made a fateful mistake which forced her to hide her shame.
Q: What's your background in theatre?
James: Two years of community theater for Alban Arts Center, Kanawha Players, and Astral Theatre Collective. Huge fan of improv.
Q: Do you have a favorite scene?
James: Act III, when all is revealed and resolved happily. That is what Fiction means.
Q: Tell us about the cast.
James: The Dream Team! A diverse group in terms of experience, age and opinions. This is the second play I have seen Rachel Sanford perform as a man. She does it more convincingly than many with Y chromosomes. Danae Samms adds a touch of physical comedy and manic energy that sells every scene. Clayton Strohmenger and Eric Rogers may wear corsets, but they are far from uptight. Tim Alderman is a perfect Bracknell and bakes awesome cookies. Bethany Reed is a delight as Lane/Merriman. Nina Surbaugh is graceful and gracious. Leah Connelly Felton provides musical accompaniment that enhances the show. You asked for cast, but Marlette Carter , Adam Bryan, Mandy Shirley and Leah Connelly are just as important to the production.
Q: Why would you recommend this show?
James: Patrick Felton knows comedy as a director and performer. This is a script with over 300 punch lines, witticisms, or sight gags, performed and prepared by people who want the audience to have as good a time watching as we did rehearsing. We live in a serious time which needs some good natured silliness. If it takes wearing a brassiere and talking with a silly accent to do it, count me in.
Q: Thanks, James!
The Importance of Being Earnest is being presented by the Alban Arts Center at 65 Olde Main Street in St. Albans on Feb. 11, 17 and 18 at 8 p.m., and Feb. 12 and 19 at 2 p.m. Tickets are $15 for adults, $10 for students and senior citizens. Group rates are available. Visit www.albanartscenter.com or call 304-721-8896.