McMaster Thespian Company production of The Importance of Being Earnest
The Baltimore House 43 King William Street

Avishka and I officially declared this week to be Theatre Week. Between a film festival screening and a night out watching a classic play, the tour stops came together rather nicely at the end of January. We were excited to return to one of our favourite new spots in the city, The Baltimore House, to watch the McMaster Thespian Company’s production of Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest. The play had a run at McMaster’s Robinson Memorial Theatre before making its way to Baltimore for four more shows. Making the night even more special, it was the launch of the much-anticipated Parlour at Baltimore. Avi and I were lucky enough to get a sneak peak of The Parlour a couple of weeks before and couldn’t wait to see it all lit up and filled with a crowd.

As you know, we have quite the proclivity for accents of all kinds, but particularly the British, so we couldn’t wait to hear the thespians give it their best. They definitely did not disappoint! In between acts, you could hear the sounds of the British accent throughout The Parlour as audience members gave it a go. Avi and I were certainly no exception. In fact, I am currently writing this entry with a British accent in mind. As you read this, if you so care to follow along in the same fashion, please do. C’mon now, it’ll be fun.

I’m a fan of Wilde’s witty repertoire and was making mental notes of all of the hilarious lines throughout the play, but that quickly proved impossible. The performance reminded me of once performing a scene in high school from another Wilde play, An Ideal Husband, where I sported a grand top hat and forced my group members to speak with British accents. It certainly isn’t easy, and I tip my hat to all of the actors in Earnest, who were pitch perfect. Baltimore’s co-owner Grant Winestock made an effortlessly dapper Jack Worthing and the inspired casting of his fellow co-owner Jimmy Skembaris as Lady Bracknell was a stroke of genius. Notable mentions to Harrison Cruikshank who was impeccably mischievous as Algernon, Sarah Granger was prim and proper as Gwendolen, and Jessica Teicher as the innocent, excitable Cecily.

The classic play is highly entertaining and is full of misunderstandings and identities that are called into question. Avi and I couldn’t help but glance at each other and stifle a giggle as Gwendolen remarks, “Jack? No, there is very little music in the name Jack, if any at all, indeed. It does not thrill. It produces absolutely no vibrations. I have known several Jacks, and they all, without exception, were more than usually plain. […] The only really safe name is Ernest.” The name Jack is of great importance to us Tourists, as it represents our four initials. It was somewhat of a full circle moment to be watching a play about a character by that name, of all names. Oh, Jack! We’re also always on the lookout for new words, and I think it’s safe to say we’ll be “bunburying” around the city from now on, when the mood strikes. If our dear friend Jack should fall mysteriously ill and we are unable to attend a previous engagement, well, you understand.

The Parlour has a rich, warm feel to it and is uniquely set up with antique furniture throughout – chairs, sofas, tables, bookcases – a lit-up bar, and a cozy little area in the back that is slightly elevated. The décor is gorgeous – rich colours, damask wallpaper, brick walls, old framed portraits, a grandfather clock, and a multitude of lamps and chandeliers that light the entire space. Each act of the play took place in a different area of the room with the audience seated all around. Avi and I lucked out by being seated in two comfy armchairs with a little end table between us which turned out to be useful to place our tasty confectioneries.

During the two intermissions, there was a Victorian Tea available for purchase which consisted a cup of tea, a scone with Devonshire cream, a chocolate brownie, and a delightful finger sandwich of your choosing (in our case, cucumber), all placed on a dainty silver platter. It has been well documented that us girls love our tea and scones; of course Avi and I simply couldn’t resist ordering the high tea, or in this case, a little late night tea. It’s surprising how many opportunities we’ve had over the course of the Tour to have tea and scones! We can be quite critical of the art of the scone, the fluffiness of it or lack thereof; we take this matter very seriously. Our snacks were simply scrumptious and gave us the fuel we needed to go into the exciting conclusion of Act III.

The Baltimore House was absolutely the perfect setting to get a little Wilde and we look forward to more classy nights in the Parlour, as well as seeking out more of the local theatre scene.

I will leave you with another passage from the play that made us giggle immensely:

Jack:
How can you sit there, calmly eating muffins when we are in this horrible trouble, I can’t make out. You seem to me to be perfectly heartless.

Algernon:
Well, I can’t eat muffins in an agitated manner. The butter would probably get on my cuffs. One should always eat muffins quite calmly. It is the only way to eat them.

Words to live by.

– Kristin

kristin
ihearthamiltontour@gmail.com
Kristin Archer is the creator of I Heart Hamilton (www.ihearthamilton.ca), where she has blogged about experiences around her hometown since 2011, growing an influential social media presence along the way. Encouraging locals to “be a tourist in your own city,” she promotes arts and culture across her various social media platforms, blog, and weekly radio show on 93.3 CFMU.

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