Frolicking farce


In his revival of The Importance of Being Earnest, at Court Theatre through December 26, director Charles Newell punctuates Oscar Wilde’s verbal acrobatics with aerobic choreography. Actors pose, prance, and leap about the sets—a miniature London cityscape that doubles as Algernon “Algy” Moncrieff’s morning-room, a manor house garden with Astroturf hedges, and the same house’s library, hedges transformed with purple velour and gold braiding into bookcases and hassocks. If that’s not enough, an onstage pianist tickles the ivories on a white baby grand at the rear of the stage, underscoring key phrases to comic effect.

Subtitled “A Trivial Comedy for Serious People,” the play about love among English society’s leisure class delivers more than its share of one-liners, from Algy’s assessment of his own piano playing—“I don’t play accurately—any one can play accurately—but I play with wonderful expression”—to Jack (née Earnest) Worthing’s rueful realization that “it is a terrible thing for a man to find out suddenly that all his life he has been speaking nothing but the truth.” Although the theatergoers have heard many of Wilde’s bon mots before, the actors garner fresh laughs.

At times it seems as if Court’s cavorting cast will take a tumble over the gymnastic set, but Earnest concludes as Fiction (at least according to the play’s requisite governess) is meant to: the good end happily.

By M.R.Y.

Photos: Lance Stuart Baker as Algernon Moncrieff and Sean Allan Krill as Jack Worthing (top); Lance Stuart Baker as Algernon Moncrieff and Cristen Paige as Cecily Cardew (bottom).

Photos by Michael Brosilow.

December 1, 2004