Wilde wit comes alive with a contemporary twist on the dialogue that makes it more accessible to the average sense of humour
Energy runs high in the Arts Club production of what is considered by many to be Oscar Wilde’s funniest play. Oversized props and set decoration popping with colour creates a surreal aesthetic in the late 19th century setting.
The Importance of Being Earnest is a clever satire on Victorian high society, marriage, class, and wealth. Two wealthy young men, Jack Worthing of the countryside, and city boy Algernon Moncrieff, both assume the alias of Ernest in order to behave as they please without ruining their important reputation. Both with very different personalities and outlooks on life find themselves in a rather sticky situation when they run into each other pretending to be the same person, with their respective love interests by their side. Confusion arises and tension builds as the two conjure up ways around this mess.
Ryan Beil, who has a long history as an improv comedian and goofy trainee in A&W commercials, lived up to his quirky persona as Jack. As Algernon, Charlie Gallant’s delivery of Wilde’s language is pitch perfect and his comic timing is flawless. The chemistry amongst them all is superb as they feed off of each other’s energy from line to line, gesture to gesture.
Those more attached to Oscar Wilde’s raw version of Earnest might be critical of director David Mackay’s liberties with Wilde’s humour, throwing in vulgar jokes here and there, adding in shouting and food fights where there was none in the original script. While it does allow the dialogue to be more relatable to everyone, regardless of whether they own a monocle, and most will be laughing from start to end, one has to wonder whether Mackay’s addition of his own subtly vulgar puns was written specifically to broaden its appeal with a contemporary audience. Judged apart from its context as a play written for 1895, stellar comic performance, creative direction, and production value gives Earnest an ubiquitous appeal for the young and hip, as was evident in the demographics of the opening night audience.
The Importance of Being Earnest runs at the Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage until April 15.