Monday, March 14, 2016

GSC delights with its turn at Oscar Wilde's earnest pursuit of the name Ernest

Since its inception in 2008, the Garfield Shakespeare Company has focused primarily on the works of Shakespeare when drafting its annual schedule of productions. In recent years, however, GSC has occasionally strayed into more contemporary works so patrons can experience -- and enjoy -- variety in local free theater.

There was Bernard Shaw's "Pygmalion" in 2011, and Thornton Wilder's "The Matchmaker" in 2013. The "straying" expanded in a significant way in 2014, when GSC took a full year's hiatus from Shakespeare, presenting Jean Anouilh's "Antigone" in the spring and the Lerner and Loewe musical "Camelot" in the summer.

After devoting all of the 2015 schedule to the Bard ("The Merry Wives of Windsor" and "Othello"), GSC is back to straying with its spring 2016 production of Oscar Wilde's "The Importance of Being Earnest," an entertaining farce directed by GSC veteran Chris Burton. "Earnest" features a splendid cast that nails all the nuances and emphasis of Wilde's clever writing, leaving few lulls in laughs for the audience. GSC will return to Shakespeare this summer with "Romeo and Juliet" at the park's MacAllister Amphitheater. It also has other plans on its 2016 program; for details, visit the announcements page of the troupe's website.

"Earnest" completed its first weekend of shows with a matinee on Sunday (March 13). Three shows remain -- Thursday, Friday and Saturday (March 17, 18 & 19), all at 7:30 p.m. There is no admission fee, although visitors are invited to leave donations to help the troupe finance future shows and endeavors. Bags of chips and cold non-alcoholic beverages (soda and water) are available for purchase for $1 each during intermission. Although admission is free, attendees are encouraged to call the arts center beforehand (317-327-7135) to ensure/reserve seats.

I photographed "Earnest" at its March 9 dress rehearsal. It was the 11th GSC show I have photographed since "Macbeth" in 2010. You can find a full gallery of images from "Earnest" at my SmugMug site.

I lead off the post with a shot from the play's first scene, one featuring Algernon Montcrieff (played by David Santangelo), left, and Jack Worthing (played by Spencer Elliott), longtime friends and eligible bachelors in Victorian society who are spirited, playful antagonists in a quest for identifying with the coveted name "Ernest." Each man also strives to win the affection of women who, as it turns out, are highly attracted to the gentlemanly name "Ernest" (yet another curiosity).

Photo Geek stuff: I shot the entire rehearsal in RAW format -- and with available light -- with my Canon 6D and mostly with my Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L lens. For a short period in the middle of the shoot, just to get a variety of perspective, I used my Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS lens, but found myself stepping back to get things into the picture frame when using that lens. I set the camera shooting mode to shutter priority, selecting 1/160 as my speed of choice to allow for freeze action but also to capture some movement in key spots where movement was critical to depict. I used ISO 3200 most of the time, adjusting it up slightly in the extreme right and left corners of the stage, where the provided stage lighting dropped off considerably. I used automatic white balance, and because that choice delivered images on the warm (orange/yellow) side of the color spectrum, I slightly adjusted the color level in most images to cooler temperatures during the Adobe Camera RAW stage of post-processing on Photoshop Elements 13. I made reduced copies of my images for use online using the batch feature of Irfanview, increasing the sharpening percentage to 70% (in the advanced settings area of the Irfanview menu) rather than sharpening reduced images individually, which I'd done in the past. I sharpen reduced-sized images because I've found through the years that images tend to lose some sharpness when their size is reduced.   

Above: Mike Harold, playing Algernon Montcrieff's manservant, provides a deft assist to return a hat to Spencer Elliott, who plays Jack Worthing, when the hat took an unscripted topple in an early scene. Worthing is chatting with Montcrieff, played by David Santangelo. Below, the same three characters in a different moment of the same scene, and below that, Santangelo once more. 

Above and below: Kate Ghormley enters the scene as Lady Bracknell, Algernon's aunt and a societal snob who married into the upper class. Lady Brackness is trying to find a suitable bride for her nephew. He eventually falls for Cecily, Jack's 18-year-old ward. Above, she applies a stern hand to her nephew, and below, she faints after Worthing tells her he is interested in marrying her daughter, Gwendolyn, played by Ashely Chase Elliott (far right in photo above).

Above and next three below: Christy Walker (above, left) entertains in a secondary role as Miss Prism, the governess/tutor of Cecily Cardew (right), Jack's ward, the 18-year-old daughter of his adopted father, Thomas Cardew. Cecily is played by GSC newcomer Bita Eisenhut.

Above and below: Rev. Canon Chasuble, played by John Garlick, enters the story when Jack and Algernon petition the minister to christen them. Miss Prism takes a quick liking to Chasuble. 

Above: Another shot of Bita Eisenhut as Cecily, during a conversation with Algernon.

Above: Ashley Chase Elliott, as Gwendolyn Fairfax, Lady Bracknell's daughter and object of Jack's affection.

Above and below: If you haven't gone to the play yet but plan to do so, keep a watchful eye on Jack's butler, Merriman, played by Bill Baker, in the Second Act (after intermission). His antics as butler while standing in the background (including helping himself to his guests' tea and snacks) and his facial expressions while he observes the untangling of the cast's confusion and secrets, are bound to conjure smiles -- if not outright laughs.  

Above: Algernon loves muffins, and he keeps dangling them in front of Jack, much to the latter's consternation.

Above: The moment after Gwendolyn accepts Jack's proposal for marriage. 

Lady Bracknell (above) as Jack informs her of his ward Cecily's imminent fortune, immediately changing Lady Bracknell's stance on Cecily's suitability for her nephew Algernon, and (below) after she gives her enthusiastic support of their union.

Above: Jack and Algy, in the throes of another playful tiff. 

When Jack learns of Miss Prism's critical role (and Lady Bracknell's confirmation of such) in ascertaining his true identity, he excitedly embraces her (above) and Algernon (below).

Above: Jack's critical moment of discovery.

1 comment:

  1. This makes me wish I could drive up to see the show... wonderful photos!