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‘Importance of Being Earnest:’ Oscar Wilde satire soars at FRP
Thursday, 04 August 2016 11:39
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HENDERSONVILLE — The Flat Rock Playhouse production of  Oscar Wilde’s satirical masterpiece, “The Importance of Being Earnest,” was entertaining — and thought-provoking — on July 9 at the FRP’s downtown Hendersonville theater.

Indeed, this classic and important play was handled with skill and grace — and dare I say earnestly? — by the playhouse’s small cast.

Nearly a full house of 250 people attended the almost two-hour, two-act performance on July 9. It received a standing ovation from the crowd. The play ran July 7-24. 

Highlights included an across-the-board adroit performance by the cast, exquisite direction by Lisa K. Bryant, dramatic costumes and a lavish set.

In the show’s program, Bryant wrote that “The Importance of Being Earnest” is “the last and greatest of Oscar Wilde’s finished plays” and now, more 100 years later, “it remains one of the greatest comedies in the English language.”

She added, “The playhouse has never produced this play, or any other quite like it, nor are there any quite like it. We’re so pleased to present the frothy confection this season as a sweet summer morsel for our valued patrons to delight in....”

Ironically, “Oscar Wilde described his play as ‘a trivial comedy for serious people,’ but it can easily be argued that it is just as well ‘a serious comedy for trivial people.’ You may decide for yourself,” the play’s director said.

Among the major characters and respective cast members were John Worthington (Joshua Marx) and Algernon Moncrieff (David Lind), as two men on the make (in a Victorian way) —  and the Hon. Gwendolyn Fairfax (Ruth Pferdehirt), and Cecily Cardew (Lizzie O’Hara) as the two female objects of their serious romantic interest.

Other memorable characters were Lady Bracknell (Preston Dyar), Miss Prism (Jane Bushway), Governess (Jane Bushway) and the Rev. Canon Chasuble, D.D. (Peter Thommasson).

A weak point was Dyar’s over-acting as Gwendolyn’s mother, who came on much too strong and too masculine. That the part was played by a man may explain that error.

Also, as the play ended, a lovely recording of Frank Sinatra’s 1947 rendition of “Almost Like Being in Love” was played. It certainly sent the audience out on a romantic note, although one that is just a bit far removed from the Victorian-era setting of the play.

To enjoy “The Importance of Being Earnest,” it is helpful to have some idea what this play is about, why it is important, and how one can appreciate it. 

Set in Victorian England, the play tells of two friends who use the same pseudonym (“Earnest”) for their ruses (each wooing the woman of his dreams) and hilarity ensues.

As Gwendolyn, one of the female love interests, admits, early in the play, “We live in an age of ideals and my idea has always been to love (and marry) a man named Earnest.”

Wilde’s clever and tongue-in-cheek dialogue was allowed — wisely —  to deliver the story unencumbered by too much thinking or effort.

As this play points out in both in subtle and not-so-subtle ways, too much thinking and too much effort would have soured the theatrical experience, as it would have done likewise in the trivial pursuit of the good life that England’s upper-crust sought so earnestly. 

Suffice it to say, the word “earnest” is used quite often in the play. And for clarity’s sake, “earnest” is when people are sincere; “Ernest” is a man’s name; and there is most definitely a close connection between the two in this play. 

“Working within the social conventions of late Victorian London, the play’s major themes are the triviality with which it treats institutions as serious as marriage, and the resulting satire of Victorian ways,” Wikipedia noted.

Ouija boards: Portal to Hell or power of the mind?
Thursday, 04 August 2016 11:37
Special to the Daily Planet

When I open my own occult shoppe, I will carry Ouija boards. All kinds. I’ll carry the classic board that everyone remembers. I’ll even have one that glows in the dark! As if contacting the dead isn’t scary enough. 

Now, some people ask, “Why would you sell such a thing? Why would you open a portal to the Other Side, not knowing what will come through?” 

The truth is, a gifted person can open a portal and not even know it.

I played around with Ouija boards at slumber parties all through my pre-teen years and I never had anything scary happen.

As an adult, I had a friend who lived in Virginia in a house inhabited by the ghost of a little boy. She felt as if he didn’t like her because he seemed to go out of his way to scare her. I, on the other hand, had had nothing but good experiences at that house.

So, she and her boyfriend, the most intuitive tarot card reader I’ve ever known, met up for a Ouija board session one night with my super-skeptical boyfriend and me.

Evie went first. She and I placed our fingers lightly on the planchette and it started moving immediately. Her boyfriend asked the questions and recorded the answers. Bottom line: the little boy hated her, was indeed trying to scare her and wanted her to leave.

Next, it was my turn. Evie’s boyfriend started asking questions of whatever spirit was hanging around me. Again, the planchette raced across the board.

Of the many questions we asked, only two or three really stood out in my mind. “Why are you hanging around Shelley?” The planchette moved quickly, yet gracefully, across the board in a swirling fashion and stopped briefly on a series of letters. When it stopped, the answer was that it was protecting me.

The next obvious question was posed and the answer turned out to be nothing any of us expected and far scarier than Evie’s little ghost boy.

“What are you protecting Shelley from?” The planchette swirled around again and again, stopping briefly so we could see where it landed. When it completely stopped, we looked at our friend’s notes: M•O•N•S•T•R

We tried to ask additional questions, but no more answers were forthcoming. Could it have something to do with my boyfriend watching us like a hawk and voicing every reason he could why this should not be possible?

Perhaps we didn’t get any more answers because he kept manipulating the board, turning it this way and that with each question. He surmised that it must have been Evie and me who were manipulating the planchette and manufacturing the answers. Unconsciously, of course. 

Whatever. My eyes were closed most of the time and Evie and I were not the ones reading the answers as they were spelled out on the board. At the end, we got a bunch of random letters that meant nothing. I think the spirits were annoyed and pissed. I know I sure was!

I still have the carefully recorded notes to each question that was asked that night. Somewhere. I guess I haven’t felt motivated to dig them out because the experience was enough for me.

What my boyfriend failed to consider was the power of the mind. It wasn’t the board or the planchette that had some supernatural power. It was us. The board and the planchette were merely something to focus on. 

No doubt everyone has heard of the famous case that inspired “The Exorcist.” (OK. That’s weird. My bedside lamp just turned itself off twice as I was writing this paragraph.) Anyway, a teenage boy was introduced to the spirit board by his aunt who was very much into the spiritualist movement. 

After her death, he tried to contact her by using the spirit board, but some say he contacted a demon instead. At first came the scratching in the walls, then the scratches on him from inside his body. Then his personality changed and from there, all Hell broke loose.

The Roman Catholic Church performed an extended exorcism on him and finally, the demon departed. From all accounts, he grew up to be a strong, healthy man. He got married and had children and lived a wonderful life.

Here’s my advice: if you’re going to do it, be smart about it. Don’t use it alone. Surround yourself in a bubble of divine white light and shut the door when you’re done. By the “shut the door,” I mean that you need to say that the session has ended and you’re shutting the door and everything that came through the door must leave now. I also think amulets and talismans with ancient symbols of protection are pretty necessary.

Shelley Wright, an Asheville native, is a paranormal investigator. She works at Wright’s Coin Shop in Asheville and is a weekly participant in the “Speaking of Strange” radio show from 9 p.m. to midnight on most Saturdays on Asheville’s WWNC-AM (570).



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