It's a quiet moment for the cast of "The Importance of Being Earnest," which opens this weekend at Cal State Bakersfield.

Courtesy of Maria-Tania Becerra

Who hasn't wished they could throw off the shackles of everyday life by assuming a different persona and leading another life? Well, maybe not everyone, but the creative types out there have certainly indulged in some daydreaming. That is certainly the case for Oscar Wilde and his play, "The Importance of Being Earnest," which opens this week at Cal State Bakersfield.

Hailed as a comic masterpiece, it is the story of two friends who both create alter egos named Ernest in order to woo their lovers who, conveniently, claim only to be attracted to people named Ernest.

Director Maria-Tania Becerra said she has long been a fan of the poet-playwright's wit and humor.

"I have always loved Oscar Wilde's work, and this particular piece is both poignant and fun," she wrote in an email.

She describes the show as a direct criticism of the gender roles of the time (1895-96) that provides commentary on the attributes of marriage.

"The play is saturated with sarcasm," she wrote. "He presents a serious topic, while making you laugh."

Based on the themes, the director decided to experiment with the material by switching the gender roles. Thus the lead male characters (Jack and Algernon) are played by women — Susannah Vera and Taylor Clark, respectively — and female characters (Gwendolen and Cecily) are played by men — Garrett Willis and Trent Banet. 

"It is interesting to see what happens to the script when genders are switched," Becerra wrote. "In some cases, the gender norms are perpetuated, while in others, as Wilde tried to make fun of gender roles to begin with, something completely different emerged."

The show also stars Anthony Jauregui, Luis Valadez, Phoebe Pyne, Bella Becerra and Jessica Sanchez.

Along with being entertained, Becerra would like attendees to consider the relevant points this 123-year-old play makes about modern society.

"I would like audiences to think about the roles we impose in society based merely on gender."

Stefani Dias can be reached at 661-395-7488. Follow her on Twitter at @realstefanidias.

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