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The Importance of Being Earnest, Northwood High School Academy, Silver Spring, Maryland, November 17, 2018

Bette Vajda

St. Stephen’s & St. Agnes School


Dry, witty, and entertaining, Oscar Wilde's ‘The Importance of Being Earnest' remains as charming and humorous as it did in 1895, and it shines on Northwood High School's stage. The play chronicles the story of two friends, John Worthing and Algernon Moncrieff, who each maintain a fictional persona in order to escape irritating social events. The two get tangled up in the web of their own deceit, however, when they each fall for women who believe them to be people they're not.


The show's leads, Isaac Umanzor as John Worthing and Miguel Cuesta as Algernon Moncrief, served up Wilde's banter comfortably, establishing a rapport between their characters from the very first scene. Umanzor treated his character's relationship with Gwendolen Fairfax (Elaina Giaudrone) tenderly and effectively, and the two had great onstage chemistry, demonstrated by the two light kisses in Act One. Giaudrone established equally good chemistry with Sophia Willis playing Cecily Cardew.  The moments when the women were onstage together were easily the most riveting of the play. Cuesta knew his character very well and brought extra humor to it when he ate all the sweets off the table while watching Cecily and Gwendolen fight, for instance.


Comedic standouts were Consuela Watts as Lady Bracknell and Helena Moulou as Lane/Merriman. Watts delivered her character's often ridiculous ‘advice' with chipper, decisive energy, a very consistent British accent, and excellent stage presence as she strode from place to place. Moulou provided a breath of fresh air in every scene she was in, allowing the audience to see, through her reactions, the ridiculousness of the behavior of the upper class.


Sound (Rowan Arnold, Senia Gonzales, Nicholas Quintana and Ethan Zoz) was used sparingly but to great effect. Algernon's ‘piano playing' was perfectly timed, starting and ending right on cue, and furthering the realism of the scene. The lights (Ryan Hoskinson, Simon Sinnreich, and Nhi Tan) were mellow and golden for the indoor scenes and bluer and brighter for the outdoor scenes, allowing the audience to immerse themselves in whatever landscape was portrayed. The microphones were impeccably balanced, and though the set rarely changed, it was always just intricate enough to be believable, but never distracted from the action. Props (Asha Burtin) were perfect, and the fact that the cookies were edible was a wonderful touch.


Wilde once said that "In matters of grave importance, style, not sincerity, is the vital thing." ‘The Importance of Being Earnest' at Northwood High School had both style and sincerity, delivering a delicate, diverting, and downright funny ‘wilde' ride.


Dagny Scannell

Bishop Ireton High School


Two stories, two romances, and two ...Ernests? Northwood High School took the audience on a whimsical and enjoyable ride, while also exploring the social setting of 19th century England in their production of The Importance of Being Earnest. Through twists and turns, honesty and deception, Northwood was able to give a truly unforgettable performance.


Written by Oscar Wilde over a century ago, this classic play has remained popular over the years. First performed in February of 1895 in London, The Importance of Being Earnest follows two men, Jack Worthing and his friend Algernon Moncreif, in their attempts to woo their respective love interests. However, things aren't always what they seem, and the two men use their budding relationships as an escape from their real lives and become entangled in their separate relationships by using the same false name: Ernest. Their personalities (and names) shift between the city and country, creating foolish and completely unavoidable conflict that, along with the witty and cleverly written script, kept the audience giggling throughout the performance.


This show would not have been the same without the two leading men, who were skillfully portrayed by Isaac Umanzor (John) and Miguel Cuesta (Algernon). These two both did a proficient job in their roles and were especially good taking the little moments in between dialogue to build their individual characters. In addition to this, Umanzor specifically had excellent pacing in the delivery of his lines, which helped the audience understand the refined text. Cuesta, on the other hand, was most notable for his physicality and excelled by adding to scenes even when he was not speaking. 


Although the show revolves around these two men, the actresses playing Gwendolen Fairfax and Cecily Cardew (Elaina Giaudrone and Sophia Willis respectively) were hardly forgotten. Giaudrone, who was onstage in all three acts, did a superb job of adding to each of her scenes naturally and her realistic inflection and physical movements helped draw the audience even further into the story. Willis, while she was only seen in the second and third acts, contributed impressively to the rise in energy and commitment that was exhibited as this show progressed. The scenes with these two women together were especially strong, and the chemistry between them really helped show their character development. Not only were these two women very talented, but they were also complemented by other strong actresses. Lady Bracknell (Consuela Watts) and Miss Prism (Dyuti Basu) both did an excellent job in becoming absorbed in their character's identity and remaining committed until the curtain closed.


Apart from the actors, the technical elements were all strong, with details in the set specifically that helped define the three separate acts. Each of these acts was in a new location, but the feel of each scene (between the sets, props, sound, and lights) was very similar, providing the audience with seamless transitions that allowed them to stay engaged throughout the entire show.


In the seemingly prim and proper society of Victorian England, the shenanigans of Jack and Algernon had the audience rolling on the floor. The actors did a wonderful job filling up the stage with their acting, and their complete comprehension of the text was evident in their inflection and physicality. The Importance of Being Earnest at Northwood High School was a witty and enjoyable production and the matinee performance was even more delightful and engaging than an afternoon tea.


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