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Chattahoochee Shakespeare Co. presents Oscar Wilde play

It's style over substance in the Chattahoochee Shakespeare Co.'s production of "The Importance of Being Earnest."

The Oscar Wilde play gets an update, going from the late 19th century to 1960s mod London.

"It's all about Mondrian and paisley, Saville Row suits and A-line dresses," said ChattShakes founder and artistic director Troy Heard. "There's a lot of self-awareness of status and class."

The play is about two men who use the name "Earnest" as they go from their country homes to visit friends in London. They each meet a woman who falls in love with Earnest. When the two women meet, they are incensed to find out that they each love Earnest.

"The play is about tea cups," Heard said. "Tea takes a big role in two of the five acts."

Heard is known for unusual casting and this show is no different.

He cast Miranda Baras as Algernon and Doug Lucas as Cecily. Baras will be dressed and act as a man; Lucas will be dressed and act as a woman.

"My first reaction was that it was a little strange," Lucas said. "But I didn't shy away from it. Female impersonation is a hobby of mine."

Besides, the role of Lady Bracknell is often played by a man, Lucas said. The ChattShakes show features Chiara Richardson in the role.

Heard said Baras and Lucas "slipped right into the roles."

"Guys walk differently," Baras said about getting in the role of Algernon. Dressing like a man takes some doing, too, she said.

Her breasts are bound tightly. "It hurts," Baras said.

Lewis Powell and John Lee have been in all three of the inaugural season's offerings.

Powell is playing Jack, while Lee is playing Rev. Chasuble.

"I know I've played other romantic leads, but I normally play character roles," Powell said.

He said learning the lines for this show was tougher than the two previous Shakespeare plays (“The Comedy of Errors" and "Measure for Measure").

"It was a lot to do with complex words, but also very complex syntax," Powell said. "I realized that most of the characters, instead of talking to each other, talk at each other."

Lee also said it was more challenging, though the lines are not written in iambic pentameter rhymes.

"I don't have to worry about the rhythm," he said.

As soon as this show is over, Lee will be going to Central City, Colo., where he'll work at the Central City Opera this summer.

"This is, by far, the most challenging role I've ever played," Richardson said. "It's out of my age range. But it's been lots of fun."

Rubye Feagins is playing Miss Prism. Normally a director, this is a rare acting role.

"I did this play a long time ago in California," she said. "It's a great, new experience for me. It's all good."

Performing outdoors is something new to most of the cast.

"I never thought twice about performing here," Stafford said. "I like it."

Playing Powell's love interest is Jo Lester, who plays Gwendolen.

"You have to play up all your gestures," Lester said. "All your acting has to be supported from your diaphragm," referring to be able to project her voice so the whole audience can hear her.

IF YOU GO

What: The Importance of Being Earnest," by Oscar Wilde is a comedy of manners. It's about two men who use the same pseudonym, Earnest, to maintain anonymity, and mistaken identities abound.

When: 7 tonight-Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday; also, 7 p.m. April 10-12 and 2 p.m. April 13

Where: The Riverfront Amphitheater, at Front Avenue and Fifth Street

Tickets: $15, $12 for students, seniors and military

Information: 702-423-6366

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