Oscar Wilde's A WOMAN OF NO IMPORTANCE Comes To The Walnut
Walnut Street Theatre (WST) continues its 211th season with Oscar Wilde's classic comedy, A WOMAN OF NO IMPORTANCE. Directed by Walnut Producing Artistic Director Bernard Havard, the production begins previews on January 14, opens January 22, and continues through March 1 on the Walnut's Mainstage.
A beautiful, wealthy, American woman travels to England seeking to marry a titled aristocrat. The incomparable Oscar Wilde employs this deceptively simple plot to masterfully mock British society-and the Englishness of the English. In this classic comedy of manners, Wilde holds an unfiltered mirror up to the bourgeois life of Victorian England, while extolling the virtues of robust-and refreshing-American values. Cultures clash, long-held secrets are exposed, and A WOMAN OF NO IMPORTANCE has the final word, as the master of biting wit satirizes the roles we play.
Well known for his mastery of wit and satire, Oscar Wilde penned A WOMAN OF NO IMPORTANCE in the height of his career in the 1890s. The play premiered in 1893 at London's Haymarket Theatre. Wilde pulled no punches when criticizing the social constructs of the Victorian era in which he lived. Women held very few rights compared to men during this time, and Wilde tackled the societal double standards that pervaded the late 19th century.
Walnut Producing Artistic Director Bernard Havard leads the cast from the director's seat for this production. Havard's Walnut directorial credits include The Humans, God of Carnage, ART, Someone to Watch Over Me, Skylight, and Driving Miss Daisy. He has spent his life in theatre as an actor, stage manager, director, managing director and producer. Recognized as one of America's leading theatre producers, he has proudly served America's Oldest Theatre for over 35 years. Under his leadership, the Walnut became a not-for-profit, self-producing theatre and has gained international recognition as one of America's premier regional theatres.
Alicia Roper assumes the role of the strong-willed Mrs. Arbuthnot. Roper has been seen at the Walnut in The Curious Incident...Night-Time, Beautiful Boy, Enchanted April, The Constant Wife, and The Philadelphia Story. She has performed in theatres across the country including Yale Repertory, Cleveland Play House, Seattle Children's Theatre, and Mark Taper Forum. Brandon O'Rourke returns to the Walnut as Mrs. Arbuthnot's illegitimate son, Gerald Arbuthnot. O'Rourke has been seen on the WST stage performing in Peter and the Starcatcher, Oliver!, Les Misérables, Carousel, Peter Pan, State Fair and, most recently, A Funny Thing Happened...Forum. Walnut veteran Ian Merrill Peakes plays the amorous bachelor Lord Illingworth. This show will mark Peakes' 13th at the Walnut, including The Curious Incident...Night-time, Harvey, Ideal Husband, Baskervilles, and Of Mice and Men. Additionally, this will be his 129th professional production in his long career that includes three Barrymore Awards, a Helen Hayes Award, and two Best of Denver Awards. He shares the stage with his wife, Karen Peakes, who is playing the flirtatious Mrs. Allonby. She has been seen on the WST Mainstage in The Curious Incident...Night-Time, Comedy of Tenors, Of Mice and Men, Fallen Angels, and Born Yesterday; and in the Independence Studio on 3 in Speaking in Tongues, Doubt, and Last of the Red Hot Lovers.
Longtime Walnut actor and director Bill Van Horn returns to play Sir John Pontefract. On the Walnut Mainstage, Van Horn has directed The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, A Christmas Carol, Peter and the Starcatcher, Around the World in 80 Days, and The Glass Menagerie. He has also appeared on stage in numerous other Walnut productions, including: The Gifts of the Magi, Annie, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, The Wizard of Oz, A Christmas Story, Mary Poppins, Elf, and Fiddler on the Roof. After her rousing performance in this season's production of Young Frankenstein, Mary Martello is back on the Mainstage as Lady Caroline Pontefract. Martello has accrued five Barrymore awards and 18 nominations throughout her impressive career. She has performed in over 30 WST productions including Holiday Inn, Noises Off, The Humans, and Annie. Jane Ridley plays the host of the evening's party, Lady Hunstanton. Ridley was recently seen on the Walnut stage in The Curious Incident...Night-Time. This marks her sixth show at the Walnut.
Walnut teaching artist Jessica Bedford returns to play the naïve Lady Stutfield. Bedford starred in the Walnut's And Then There Were None, The Prescott Method, and most recently, this season's Meteor Shower in the Independence Studio on 3. She also teaches at the Walnut as part of its theatre school faculty and has taught at Montgomery County Community College, Villanova University, Temple University, University of the Arts, DeSales University, and for the Performing Arts Project at Wake Forest University. Playing the Venerable Archdeacon Daubeny is Walnut Veteran Peter Schmitz. Schmitz has been seen at the Walnut in The Importance of Being Earnest, And Then There Were None, and Arsenic & Old Lace. Paul L. Nolan is back on the Walnut Mainstage to play the stuffy Mr. Kelvil. Nolan has performed in a number of Walnut productions since 2006, including Elf, Of Mice and Men, White Christmas, and The Mousetrap. He has also been seen in TV and film, including roles in The Wire, Ocean's 11, and All Square.
Making their Walnut Street Theatre debuts will be Audrey Ward and Tyler Ivey. Ward plays the show's sole American character, Miss Hester Worsley and is a sophomore at Temple University, earning her B.A. in Theater Studies. She was most recently seen on stage in the Temple Theater production of An Enemy of the People. Tyler Ivey plays the dual roles of the butler, Farquhar, and the footman, Francis. Ivey is a graduate of Temple University's Musical Theatre program and has been seen performing for the Penobscot Theatre Company, 11th Hour Theatre Co., and the national tour of Mad Libs Live! Becca Jackson rounds out the company as Alice. Jackson was last seen on the Walnut stage as Brooke in Noises Off, and has been seen on stage at the Hunterdon Hills Playhouse and Delaware Theater Company.
Scenic Designer Roman Tatarowicz (Meteor Shower, Young Frankenstein, Holiday Inn, Forum) returns to the Walnut to bring the lavish Victorian estate of Lady Hunstanton to the Mainstage. Creating the gorgeous gowns and suits of England's late 19th century upper-class is Costume Designer and Walnut Costume Shop Manager Mary Folino (Shrek The Musical, Young Frankenstein, The Curious Incident...Night-Time, Matilda, South Pacific, Peter and the Starcatcher). They will be joined by Lighting Designer Shon Causer (A Comedy of Tenors, The Humans, Kate, Arsenic and Old Lace) and eight-time Barrymore Award winning Sound Designer Christopher Colucci, whose previous WST credits include A Comedy of Tenors, The Humans, and Peter and the Starcatcher.
A WOMAN OF NO IMPORTANCE runs at the Walnut January 14 - March 1, 2020. There will be a talkback after the 8:00 p.m. performance on January 15, after the 2:00 p.m. performance on January 26, and after the 7:00 p.m. performance on February 9. This production is sponsored by P.J. Clarke's. Media Partners are 6abc, Metro, and The Philadelphia Inquirer. For tickets and information, call 215-574-3550 or 800-982-2787. Tickets are also available online 24/7 by visiting www.WalnutStreetTheatre.org or Ticketmaster.