Sunday, October 13, 2013

More that a Century On, Earnest Remains Important

by Pa Rock
Theatre Fan

My first exposure to the work of Irish playwright, poet, and novelist, Oscar Wilde, was as a youngster when I came across an old black and white movie version of his novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray, playing on television.  While I didn't have the maturity or sophistication to appreciate the complexity of the work, by the time I finally read the novel in college I was able to truly appreciate the mind and writing ability of the author.

Oscar Wilde was primarily a playwright.  (Dorian Gray, was in fact, his only novel.)  His characters have entertained generations of audiences with their awkward social situations and clever dialogue - and no play reflects Wilde's brilliant and scathing humor better than his last play, The Importance of Being Earnest.

I had seen Earnest performed on stage (years ago) and also watched the recent movie version - twice, so I entered the Herberger Theatre in Phoenix last night feeling some trepidation that the current production of the play by the Arizona Theatre Company might fall short when it came to inspiring my enthusiasm.  Nothing could have been further from what actually transpired.  The Arizona Theatre's version was a fresh and invigorating experience that nevertheless remained true to the playwright's original work.  The words may have been strung together more than a century ago, but they were still laugh-out-loud funny!

Oscar Wilde, a man whose personal life was far more colorful than any of his character creations, was the master of stage comedy during his short lifetime, and one of the most recognized and enduring playwrights of the Victorian era.   None of Wilde's works display his brilliance more than The Importance of Being Earnest, and the Arizona Theatre Company and their fine cast did a wonderful job of polishing that gem of a play for a twenty-first century audience.

Great works transcend time, and those of Oscar Wilde do it better than most.

No comments: