Friday, June 17, 2011

The Importance of Being Earnest

Brian Bedford as Lady Bracknell is very funny and perfect in this production of the comedy by Oscar Wilde. Lady Bracknell is blessed with some of the funniest lines ever written and Bedford delivers them with haughty, deadpan panache. Oscar Wilde's writing is awesome. The rest is uneven: the set design and the costumes are atrocious; the ugliest I have ever seen. Some members of the cast are more fortunate than others at impersonating the British upper crust. Most of them, with the exception of David Purr and Jessie Austrian, do not have quite have what it takes to land Wilde's exquisite one liners with the precision they deserve. Curiously, the one British actress in the cast I found the least intelligible and the most grating, so this is not about my usual snobbish Anglophilia. But as long as the words are understandable (and they are, for the most part), one just sits there and listens, trying not to lose even a comma. Bedford himself directed, and he seems to have directed himself to perfection, yet the rest was a bit too farcical and sometimes wobbly. I guess it is very hard to strike the right balance with this play, yet it is equally hard to be too hard on it. It is quite delightful.
Oscar Wilde sounds like a man of today, but with superior wit, charm and elegance. He is the granddaddy of some of our current wits, like David Sedaris, Simon Doonan and Paul Rudnick (they are not in the same league as Wilde, but they are funny and gay.)  Poor dear, he was born in the wrong century, way ahead of his time.

Can't resist quoting him:
Lady Bracknell:
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. The whole theory of modern education is radically unsound. Fortunately in England, at any rate, education produces no effect whatsoever. If it did, it would prove a serious danger to the upper classes, and probably lead to acts of violence in Grosvenor Square.

To lose one parent, Mr. Worthing, may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose both looks like carelessness.

Jack: I must admit I smoke.
Lady Bracknell: I am glad to hear it. A man should always have an occupation of some kind.

Algernon Moncrieff:
Relations are simply a tedious pack of people, who haven’t got the remotest knowledge of how to live, nor the smallest instinct about when to die.

All women become like their mothers. That is their tragedy. No man does. That's his.

The amount of women in London who flirt with their own husbands is perfectly scandalous. It looks so bad. It is simply washing one's clean linen in public.
 You crack me up, Oscar Wilde.

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