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Much ado: Central Coast Shakespeare Fest opens with 'Romeo and Juliet,' 'The Importance of Being Earnest'

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It felt a tad wrong. But then wine was poured and that made things much easier.

EARNESTLY YOURS:  Two men, Algernon Moncrieff (Cory Schonauer) and Jack Worthing (Tyler Lopez) fall for ladies who have always dreamed of loving men named Earnest. Cue deception and witty banter. - PHOTO BY RYAH COOLEY
  • PHOTO BY RYAH COOLEY
  • EARNESTLY YOURS: Two men, Algernon Moncrieff (Cory Schonauer) and Jack Worthing (Tyler Lopez) fall for ladies who have always dreamed of loving men named Earnest. Cue deception and witty banter.

It's Thursday evening on July 14, around 7 p.m., and the sun is just barely starting to go down as I walk down the winding dirt road leading to the stage for the Central Coast Shakespeare Festival at Filipponi Ranch in San Luis Obispo. It's a perfect summer night and our little group has blankets, popcorn, cheese, and wine galore. But something is off. See, we're at opening night at a Shakespeare festival seeing ... not Shakespeare. I know, I know. The festival has two offerings: Shakespeare's classic Romeo and Juliet and Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest. And it just so happens that the latter is showing tonight. Both plays feature star-crossed lovers, deception, and witty banter. But one was written by an Englishman of murky origins and the other was not.

I worry that old Billy is turning in his grave, but as he said, "The play's the thing," or something like that. Sips of Filipponi Ranch chardonnay and syrah help assuage the last of my guilt just in time for the opening scene of The Importance of Being Earnest.

PLOT TWIST:  At the end it’s revealed that one of the lovers might actually be Earnest after all. - PHOTO BY RYAH COOLEY
  • PHOTO BY RYAH COOLEY
  • PLOT TWIST: At the end it’s revealed that one of the lovers might actually be Earnest after all.

I'm immediately sucked in by the actors' delivery of the witty, downright outrageous schemes and the twists and turns the plot takes. Friends and men of society Algernon Moncrieff (Cory Schonauer) and Jack Worthing (Tyler Lopez) discover that they both have secret identities that allow them to have a good time and keep their good names. Complications arise when they fall for ladies who have always dreamed of loving men named Earnest. Jack handily has a brother named Earnest, whom he made up and plans to kill off, thereby taking the name for himself with his lady (and cousin of Algernon) Gwendolen Fairfax (Madeleine Whalen) being none the wiser. Problem is, Algernon has a similar idea when he falls in love with Cecily Cardew (Kristie Siebert-Lopez) who you know just happens to be Jack's ward. Did I mention that Jack is an orphan whose adopted father found him in a handbag at a train station?

- WHAT’S IN A NAME?:  	As part of the Central Coast Shakespeare Festival, William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, and Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest, a Trivial Comedy for Serious People, runs through Aug. 6 at Filipponi Ranch. Tickets range from $12 to $20. Shows run Thursdays through Sundays. Visit centralcoastshakespeare.org for the full schedule and to purchase tickets. -
  • WHAT’S IN A NAME?: As part of the Central Coast Shakespeare Festival, William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, and Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest, a Trivial Comedy for Serious People, runs through Aug. 6 at Filipponi Ranch. Tickets range from $12 to $20. Shows run Thursdays through Sundays. Visit centralcoastshakespeare.org for the full schedule and to purchase tickets.

Never fear, in the end all works out for our four lovers (wish we could say the same for Romeo and Juliet). So get thee to Filipponi Ranch, fill thy cup, and listen to the words of the bard (and Wilde).

Ryah Cooley is down for witty banter at rcooley@newtimesslo.com.

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