The Importance of Being Earnest

By Olivia Munk11th Grade, Bronx High School of Science I was unsure how I would feel seeing one of my favorite plays, The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde, staged. When I read it two summers ago, I decided what each character looked and acted like. This meant that when I arrived to see the Broadway production, I was worried that the physical manifestation would ruin the words that I had devoured from the page. When the curtains first opened, an opulent set of an aristocratic London manor met my skeptical eyes.  That wasn’t what I had expected, as my copy notes that staging can be done using curtains to avoid confusion, and that “the sparkling, enduring lines…will carry the play regardless.” I was thrown yet another curve ball when Santino Fontana played Algernon as extremely dynamic and deliciously conniving – much different from the collected gentleman laying on insults in a perfect deadpan that I had imagined. These weren’t the only things that made the production stand apart from my previous interpretation of the script. Jokes play differently as the actors employed inflection and enunciation that simply didn’t read in my own head. As fellow plogger, Zoe, remarked, “When you see it onstage, you understand the jokes more easily.” The sheer experience of being at a theater is quite different than being curled up in your bed reading a book. The buzz of the audience was undeniable, and I couldn’t help but feel an adrenaline rush at the thought of sharing such brilliant comedy with people who enjoy it as much as I do. My favorite part of the production was the performance by Brian Bedford (also the director of this production), dripping with lace and jewels to portray the venerable Lady Bracknell. A revered actor, his characterization of Aunt Augusta was not for a moment anything you would see on RuPaul’s Drag Race, but of a refined old English actor playing a refined old English lady.  Each word seemed to drip with deliberation, something that doesn’t translate in straight reading. Although movies can sometimes kill the mental quality of a written work (Twilight, anyone?) a theater production is less offensive as it is fleeting and can be staged in any number of ways. I am very pleased with how The Importance of Being Earnest was portrayed in this particular production, and would recommend it to any Wilde aficionado. TICKETS: thru 7/3 • $22 General Rush • American Airlines Theatre, 227 W. 42nd St. www.roundabouttheatre.org/aat/