Theatre in the Grove presents one of Oscar Wilde’s cleverest comedies, “The Importance of Being Earnest.” With the witty dialogue, it is an enduringly popular play, riddled with satire as Wilde delights in deflating social preconceptions. Normally set in Edwardian England, this production is propelled forward a couple of decades to the 1930s. Two bachelor friends, aristocratic Algernon Moncrieff and the most reliable Jack Worthing, lead double lives to win the affections of the desirable Gwendolyn Fairfax and Cecily Cardew. The two must then confront the uproarious consequences of their ruse.
The Importance of Earnest is Oscar Wilde’s most acclaimed and most often produced play. It premiered on Valentine’s Day in 1895 with a tag line of “A Trivial Comedy for Serious People.” Despite closing after only 86 performances, it has been revived all over the world, done for film, television, and radio, and even adapted into a musical and an opera.
The plot follows two gentlemen, Jack (Mark Putnam) and Algernon (Anne Kennedy), as they attempt to woo the young ladies that have caught their hearts. The trouble comes when Cecily (Lindsay Pertain) and Gwendolyn (Tonja Schreiber) insist they could really only love a man whose name was Ernest. Matters are complicated by Lady Bracknell (Pat Lach), mother to Gwendolen and aunt to Algernon, who has rather strong opinions about who should be marrying whom. Add in a priggish governess, a pedantic vicar, and two servants with mischief of their own, you are left with a piece that is witty and charming and, in some places, acerbic.
In Earnest, Wilde abandoned a direct and obvious satire of Victorian life to write a play where the comedy comes from the situation as well as the clever dialogue. His characters speak as archly as though they were the author himself. W.H. Auden described the piece as “a pure verbal opera.” Updating the time to the 1930s, shimmering with Art Deco and Art Nouveau style, and Wilde’s dialogue fits the feel of Hollywood Regency, on par with the rapid ripostes of Nick and Nora in The Thin Man.
While some critics may say that on the surface the play is about nothing at all, Wilde is quoted as saying that “we should treat all trivial things in life very seriously, and all serious things of life with a sincere and studied triviality.” This piece delves into the depths of triviality, taking advantage of actors’ comic timing to create a world where everyone is absurd in their seriousness without veering into camp. The show features many favorites from Theatre in the Grove and introduces new actors to our stage to create a joyous celebration of Wilde’s words.
Jack Worthing … Mark Putnam
Algernon Moncrieff … Anne Kennedy
Gwendolen Fairfax … Tonja Schreiber
Cecily Cardew … Lindsay Partain
Lady Bracknell … Pat Lach
Miss Prism … Robin Michaels
Rev. Canon Chasuble … Tadhg Wright
Lane … David Cabassa
Merriman … Kathy Campbell
PERFORMANCE SCHEDULE: June 2 – June 18, 2017
Fridays at 7:30 p.m.
Saturdays at 7:30 p.m.
Sundays at 2:30 p.m.
Tickets are $16 for adults and $14 for seniors (60 and over) and youths (17 and under).
The box office is open on Wednesdays 4 to 6 p.m. and one hour before each performance.