Generic gives a lesson in high comedy

Starting Thursday night, Lisner Downstage will host the Generic Theatre Company’s laudable interpretation of Oscar Wilde’s Importance of Being Earnest. Unfolding her director’s chair for the second time at GW, sophomore director Lisa Suben pulls a handsome cast together, presenting an amusing evening of entertainment.

“It’s a different type of theater,” Suben said. “It’s just meant to be enjoyable and entertaining. It’s not the kind of comedy that is going to have a punch line.”

Despite the absence of a modern punch line, talented efforts delivered by both cast and stage crew render Wilde’s old-fashioned high comedy suitable for a college-campus stage. The canny Victorian humor might present a challenge for a modern-day audience, but Generic’s actors fulfill their roles adequately, delivering a light-hearted performance.

Actors David Fabian and T.J. Miller, playing the parts of Jack and Algernon, respectively, open the play to its many absurdities. With their prissy British accents, ludicrous mannerisms and high-energy jaunts across stage, the two men capture the audience’s attention as the plot slowly unwinds.

Well-developed characters emerge by the close of act one as Kate Herring (Gwendolen), Kate Chrisman (Lady Bracknell) and Ryan Walsh (double-cast as Lane and Merriman) transcend their student, typified lives. Petty, venomous and unmerciful words exude from these actors’ lips and are highlighted by the actors’ ability to internalize lines scripted for 19th century performers.

Molly Adams (Cecily), Erin Fox (Miss Prism) and Karl Bezak (Chasuble) dazzle audience members soon after Suben’s second act rolls into action. Amidst the confusion in discovering the identity of the true Earnest, Adams, Fox and Bezak carry on with the credible performances seen in the first act. The sophisticated, low-budget set complements the dynamic and controlled performances in the second act.

“It’s taking the time hunting and searching through antique stores,” freshman stage manager Karen Rosenthal said. “I just think it was kind of hard to get all props.”

Despite fears of both the stage manager and director about putting on a period piece, almost every element gracing Lisner Downstage places these backstage concerns far from the eyes of the audience. The performance proves that the short six-week interval Generic Theatre members had in meeting, working and bonding together was full of sweaty, hard nights and days.

“Hopefully we’ll get a good audience,” charismatic Miller said, adding that he is slightly nervous about opening night. “I’m hoping it’s successful. I feel like it’s been a lot of people putting a lot into it.”

The particularly flamboyant appearances by Fabian and Miller, who parade around flaunting Wilde’s erroneous puns and themes, deter the possibility of audience disappointment. With the play’s good supporting roles, chuckling from spectator seats is almost guaranteed.

“I’m excited for my actors,” Suben said. “I want them to be satisfied with their performances.”

Importance of Being Earnest plays at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday, with additional performances at 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Tickets cost $3 three dollars for GW students, $5 for all others.

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