The Journal Gazette
Friday, September 06, 2019 1:00 am

First Pres opens 'The Importance of Being Earnest'

COREY MCMAKEN | The Journal Gazette

John Tolley can't say enough nice things about his cast.

“These people, I think, really love each other and are really happy to be creating something together,” says the director of “The Importance of Being Earnest,” which opens at First Presbyterian Theater tonight.

“I am just so astounded by the amount of talent here in Fort Wayne,” Tolley says. He was artistic director at First Pres from 1974 to 1990 before leaving the city. He lived around the country including Chicago, Memphis and the East Coast before moving back. In the interim the local talent and theater opportunities have exploded, he says.

Tolley also directed “Earnest” during First Pres' 1977-78 season, and remembers difficulty getting a cast together. He ended up bringing in friends from Indianapolis to take some of the roles.

He says he is excited to revisit the satire after all these years, calling it “a chestnut of a comedy” with humor that works today. First performed in 1895, writer Oscar Wilde pokes fun at the Victorian era and the elites of his time.

Algernon Moncrieff and Jack Worthing try to use deceptions to win the hand of women they love, Cecily and Gwendolen. Both the women have always wanted to marry someone named Ernest, so the men set about to change their names. As the play on words in the title suggests, there is a lesson to be learned about sincerity.

Aaron Mann plays Algernon and Chance Parker is Jack. Other cast members include Laura Laudeman as Gwendolen and Kelly Maloney as Cecily. Kate Black plays the disapproving Lady Bracknell.

Throughout the farce, Wilde comments on the trivial nature of society and how it approaches serious subjects.

The playwright's language is unparalleled, Tolley says. Some of his actors have told him they think it's harder than Shakespeare.

“There isn't a noun that he uses that doesn't have one or two adjectives attached to it, plus adverbs,” he says. “It's lovely to hear once you get it, but it's been a real challenge for the actors to get it verbatim.”

If you go

What: “The Importance of Being Earnest”

When: 7:30 p.m. today, Saturday and Sept. 13, 14, 20 and 21; 2 p.m. Sept. 15

Where: First Presbyterian Theater, 300 W. Wayne St.

Admission: $20 general admission, $18 seniors, $10 students at the door or free for the first 30 for each performance with reservation; First Pres box office, 426-7421, ext. 121, or

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