We’re all guilty, it seems, of a little Bunburying.
“I have invented an invaluable permanent invalid called Bunbury, in order that I may be able to go down into the country whenever I choose,” says Algernon Moncrieff. “Bunbury is perfectly invaluable. If it wasn’t for Bunbury’s extraordinary bad health, for instance, I wouldn’t be able to dine with you tonight.”
With this humorous admission, “The Importance of Being Earnest” takes off on a brilliant, jubilant, laugh-out-loud ride that is sure to be a highlight of the summer for attendees.
The Livermore Shakespeare Festival's not-to-be-missed production this Oscar Wilde favorite opened on June 29, with shows scheduled through July 15. Performances take place outdoors at Wente Vineyards Estate Winery & Tasting Room.
Bunburying, as a theme, comes up again and again as characters create or adopt nonexistent personas to fulfill their own particular needs. In Act 1, we meet Ernest (actually John Worthing [called Jack]) who is visiting his good friend, the aristocratic Algernon Moncrieff.
Algernon: Now, go on. Why are you Ernest in town and Jack in the country?
Jack: When one is placed in the position of guardian, one has to adopt a very high moral tone on all subjects. It’s one’s duty to do so. And as a high moral tone can hardly be said to conduce very much to either one’s health or one’s happiness, in order to get up to town I have always pretended to have a younger brother of the name of Ernest, who lives in the Albany, and gets into the most dreadful scrapes.
What may sound convoluted on paper is as clear and buoyant as a spring brook when penned by the wildly talented Wilde. From the first lines, he sets the tone for hilarious mischief and elaborate misunderstandings, deftly drawing audiences into the fun.
Says Director Domenique Lozano, “The Importance of Being Earnest is the perfect play, each thread that begins in Act 1 is woven beautifully together in the successive two acts, and the final work is simply a masterpiece of joy, verbal gymnastics, irreverent earnestness, and comic genius.”
For Wilde’s masterful wordplay to shine, it must be brought to life by extraordinary actors. In the hands of the Livermore Shakespeare Festival, it absolutely sparkles. William Hoeschler as Algernon perfectly captures the British upper class’s jaunty air, Jared Corbin Manders masterfully portrays Ernest/Jack with earnest puzzlement over Victorian attitudes, and Gwen Loeb is magnificently uproarious as Lady Bracknell. Indeed, each of the actors bring their characters to life wonderfully: Katherine Romans as Gwendolyn; Deborah Lagin as Cecily; Mary Ann Rodgers as Miss Prism; Blair Leatherwood as Rev. Chasuble; Joseph Winder as Lane; and Isaiah Alexander as Merriman.
In addition to the sensational cast, other stars of the show include: the setting – outdoors, under the stars in the vineyards, on the beautiful grounds at Wente; the award-winning wines — available by the glass or bottle, which may be enjoyed while watching the performance; the in-the-round stage ensuring everyone has a great seat up close to the action; and the gorgeous costumes that add visual truth to the characters.
All shows begin at 7:30 p.m. Upcoming performances take place on July 6-8 and 13-15. Tickets are $25 - $50, and for children 18 and under, $18. Attendees are encouraged to dress in layers and bring blankets as evenings can get chilly (blankets will also be available to rent or purchase). This Wente venue is located at 5565 Tesla Road.
For more information visit LivermoreShakes.org or call (925) 443-BARD.