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June's show is Oscar Wilde's 'The Importance of Being Earnest,' a classic comical look at social norms.

COURTESY PHOTO: KATHY CAMPBELL - Left to right, Cecily Cardew (Lindsay Partain), Gwendolen Fairfax (Tonja Schreiber), Algernon Moncrieff (Anne Kennedy), Lady Bracknell (Pat Lach), John Worthing (Mark Putnam) rehearse for Theatre in the Grove's 'The Importance of Being Earnest.' "The Importance of Being Earnest" is one of playwright Oscar Wilde's most renowned comedies. The clever dialogue sets up the play as a smart satire that deflates social preconceptions.

Forest Grove audiences will have the chance to see an updated version of the famous tale set in the 1930's when it opens at Theatre in the Grove on Friday, June 2 at 7:30 p.m.

Premiering on Valentine's Day in 1895 at the St. James Theatre in London — with a tag line of "A Trivial Comedy for Serious People" — the farcical feature tells the story of protagonists who maintain fictitious personas to escape burdensome social obligations.

The plot follows two gentlemen, Jack (Mark Putnam) and Algernon (Anne Kennedy), as they attempt to woo the young ladies that have caught their hearts. The trouble comes when Cecily (Lindsay Pertain) and Gwendolen (Tonja Schreiber) insist they could really only love a man whose name was Ernest.

Jack and Algernon struggle to keep up with their own stories and become tangled in a tale of deception, disguise and hilarious misadventure.

Matters are complicated by Lady Bracknell (Pat Lach), mother to Gwendolen and aunt to Algernon, who has rather strong opinions about who should be marrying whom.

In the play, Wilde abandoned crafting a direct and obvious satire of Victorian life to write a play where the comedy comes from the situation surrounding the characters, as well as the dialogue they trade with each other, speaking as though they were the author himself.

With the play updated to a new time period, director Jessica Reed and company are aiming to deliver a production filled with Art Deco (influenced by the bold geometric forms of Cubism; the bright colors of Fauvism and of the Ballets Russes) and Art Nouveau style (inspired by natural forms and structures, particularly the curved lines of plants and flowers).

The work delves into the depths of triviality, taking advantage of the actors' comic timing to create a world where everyone is absurd in their seriousness without going too far into camp territory. Playgoers can expect to be invested in a play that holds witty commentary on the nature of marriage, the constraints of morality, and other themes relevant to social customs and the broad society of today.

The production will run through June 18, with Friday and Saturday performances at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday performances at 2:30 p.m.

Tickets are $16 for adults and $14 for seniors (60 and over) and youths (17 and under). They can be purchased at www.theatreinthegrove.org or at the box office at 2028 Pacific Avenue on Wednesdays between 4 and 6 p.m., or one hour before each performance.

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