Brian Bedford’s The Importance of Being Earnest at the Roundabout

Another day, another drenching of wet snow to struggle through, adding the misery of a full body contact subway commute with people whose horrible taste in music pounds through their earbuds. Anyhow, as I intended to write, last night I went to see one of my favorite plays of all time, the one I write my university thesis on, have seen on stage four times, and viewed every movie version of, The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde directed by Brian Bedford.

It de-ceded expectations. Perhaps because I was bringing so much to it, I lost a naive enjoyment of it. Surely a joke is bound to lose some of its funniness when I already know the punch line. Yet I also think I have some distinct opinions about how to deliver the mannered and difficult lines (with preferably less camp) and really about how to do the whole play.

Two perfect things: the set and Brian Bedford (also the director) in his role as Lady Bracknell. He was perfect, and every line of his was a joy to hear. The campy Algernon, and over-modulated voices of the Gwendolyn and Cecily, and character roles the servants took on, and the histronics of Miss Prism–somehow none of them hit the right note of artificiality. They were all too excitable about it, not nearly languid enough. Dr. Chausable and Jack were actually rather good. They ham up the obvious theatrically of the piece rather than treating it with the upmost seriousness.

While it didn’t live up to my expectations, Wilde’s brilliance is unsquashable and it is a serviceable rendition. True to Wilde, “The good ended happily, and the bad unhappily.” The New York Times reports this morning that the critically acclaimed show’s run is being extended.

Apropos my discussion yesterday against the glorification of Nature in Schiller, this quote of Wilde’s seemed deliciously suited:

“I do not approve of anything that tampers with natural ignorance. Ignorance is like a delicate exotic fruit; touch it and the bloom is gone.” – Lady Bracknell, Act 1

2 thoughts on “Brian Bedford’s The Importance of Being Earnest at the Roundabout

Leave a Reply