The road to honesty

“The Importance of Being Earnest” shows just that – how telling a lie can ultimately cause more problems than it’s worth. Written by Oscar Wilde, this play follows two young men who are on the pursuit of marrying two women, who are both determined to marry a man with the name of Ernest. 

The play’s protagonist, Jack Worthing (William “Rusty” Thompson), is a man of great importance from the town of Hertfordshire, where he is guardian to Cecily Cardew (Katee Drysdale), the 18-year-old granddaughter of the late Thomas Cardew, who found Jack as a baby and adopted him. 

The title of the play is a double entendre because Ernest is the name of the fictional scandalous brother Jack has created. 

Ernest always needs attending to when Jack is in a situation he doesn't want to be in, which furthers the irony of the word earnest, which means “to be honest and sincere.” 

Jack uses his imaginary brother as an excuse to disappear off to London for days at a time to do whatever he wishes. 

Whenever Jack is in London, he goes by the name of Ernest, which is what everyone there knows him by. No one but Jack knows this secret of his double life, until his best friend in London, Algernon Moncrieff (Angel Hernandez), becomes suspicious after discovering an inscription inside Jack’s cigarette case that says “To Uncle Jack, from little Cecily.” 

He confronts and questions him in order to get an explanation on who “Jack” and “Cecily” are. Jack decides to come clean to Algernon about everything he has been hiding with his double life and tells him that he intends to kill off his fictional brother Ernest because Cecily has become increasingly interested in him. 

After telling him about Cecily, Algernon becomes very interested in her. Jack is in love with Algernon’s cousin, Gwendolyn Fairfax (JoAnn Amos), and at the beginning of Act I, he goes and visits Algernon in London to announce that he is going propose to her.

Gwendolyn later arrives with her mother, Lady Bracknell (Cat Bish), who is the aunt of Algernon. Jack proposes to her and she says yes with much enthusiasm. He is later distressed to learn that Gwendolyn is fixated with the name Ernest and does not wish to marry anyone with any other name. 

She states that the name Ernest “inspires absolute confidence” and is the only name she is satisfied with. 

Act II begins at Jack’s country estate where Algernon shows up unexpectedly, posing as Jack’s mysterious brother Ernest. After discovering this, Jack is infuriated to find Algernon pretending to be him without his knowledge. Jack must go along with the lie, even though he was preparing to kill off Ernest so that he would not have to live a double life anymore. The reason why Algernon took on this roll is so that he could get close to Cecily and ask for her hand in marriage. 

He is ecstatic to find that his feelings for her are reciprocated, but then quickly becomes put-off after she tells him coincidentally that she, too, is in love with the name Ernest, which, unconsciously echoing Gwendolyn, she says “inspires absolute confidence.”

Both men are left in a predicament about what they should do next – either reveal the truth about their names and suffer the probable consequences, or continue living a lie going by the name of Ernest. 

“The Importance of Being Earnest” is a mind-boggling tale with endless plot twists and turns that keeps the audience guessing. The play, directed by Judy Navas, will run from today at 10 a.m. to Nov. 9 in Evert B. Person Theatre on the Sonoma State University campus.