St. Pete Production Zombifies Oscar Wilde Classic

By Katie Stockdale and Ivy Velazquez

From Jane Austen to The Walking Dead, zombies have almost become a literary cliché. Still, when we heard of The Importance of Being Earnest with Zombies play, it seemed like a must see. Performed by the freeFall Theater in St. Petersburg, this adaptation of the original is an hysterical twist to an already comical play.

For those who haven’t seen or read the original, The Importance of Being Earnest is a comedic play by Oscar Wilde. It centers around two young, rich men, Algernon and Jack, who both have a penchant for lying about their lives in order to provide themselves with more freedom. Unfortunately, the truth catches up to them as their love interests begin to discover who they really are. Algernon and Jack are remarkably forgiven, and they learn the importance of being authentic.

Each of the characters is perfectly cast in this production, especially the actor and actress portraying Algernon and Lady Bracknell respectively. Algernon’s actor, Daniel Schwabb, fully embodies the character and comes off to the audience as funny and entertaining to watch. Lady Bracknell’s actress, Susan Haldeman, does a great job representing the character in a different way than the original play. The actors manage to stay true to the personalities of the original characters as they take on new roles within the zombie apocalypse.

This supernatural adaptation actually manages to stay quite true to Oscar Wilde’s version up until the third act, where they veer almost completely away from the plot of the original. But, to be fair, it isn’t really expected for them to be completely accurate considering the premise. This production doesn’t cut much out of the play, it just adds a few “supernatural” scenes where zombies are involved.

The producers also do a good job of keeping in the play’s signature scenes, such as Algy and Jack fighting over muffins. This helps to keep the original play’s unique personality in tact. The combination of classic and new elements helps to bring the absurdity of the adaptation home. Case in point is one of the play’s classic scenes when all the characters on set are fighting zombies and Algy sits there and “proceeds to eat all the muffins,” as said by Jack.

Although the play is set in the late 1800s, the themes seem more applicable to today’s society. A few modern references are made throughout the play, which only help to enhance the comedy. There are also scenes where the values of the Victorian age are attacked, such as the characters’ inclination to marry their cousins. At several points throughout the play, the actors seem to be talking directly to the audience, more than just asides.

It’s clear from the beginning that the zombies are just meant as a comic relief. There are only a few times when the zombies are used to actually scare the audience or make them jump. Even then, the audience would soon be laughing again at how ridiculous the scene was. Essential in this dynamic is the look given to the zombie characters–the makeup artists should be commended for their work. It’s very well done, especially for a play on such a small scale. They manage to apply in-scene makeup subtly, a tactic that works well in instances where one of the characters turns into a zombie on stage.

The Importance of Being Earnest With Zombies is fresh take on a 200 year old play, making it applicable to today’s audience and entertaining for a wide range of ages. Whether you’ve enjoyed the original play or not, this is definitely an awesome one to watch.Tickets ranging from $35 to $45, students can also receive student discounts to go see the play. Unfortunately, it won’t be at the theater much longer, ending on Nov. 1. But if you get the chance to go before then, be sure to take it.

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