Ruth Leon recommends…The Importance of Being Earnest – Roundabout Theatre

Ruth Leon recommends…The Importance of Being Earnest – Roundabout Theatre

Ruth Leon recommends

norman lebrecht

August 06, 2021

The Importance of Being Earnest – Roundabout Theatre
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3-day rental £15+£3

​This is the most recent Broadway production of Oscar Wilde’s comedic masterpiece, The Importance of Being Earnest, directed by and starred Tony nominee Brian Bedford in his final stage performance, as Lady Bracknell.

Wilde called it The Importance of Being Ernest: A Trivial Comedy for Serious People and it is my belief that, along with Noel Coward’s Private Lives, it is the most perfect example of high comedy yet written in English. I could tell you the plot but, in truth, it doesn’t matter. What does matter is the style and characterisation. It’s very difficult to direct Wilde because, if the director makes one casting error, or misunderstands one of Wilde’s many subtle stylistic signposts, the entire edifice falls apart.  It’s a soufflé and, like a soufflé, if it rises, it’s delicious, if it falls, it’s a catastrophe.
Brilliant, hilarious, exquisitely observed, Brian Bedford was a great actor and director who understood both the deliberate vulgarity of Wilde, and all his subtlety, and knew how to play them both with equal weight. He was an unmissable Lady Bracknell who died in 2016 and I miss him still.

The presentation is hosted by David Hyde-Pierce, and includes an intermission feature with actor Alfred Molina and professor Michael Hackett discussing the life and works of Oscar Wilde. You can fast-forward through this if you just want Bedford and the play, untrammelled. In my view, it needs no explanation but it’s here if you want it.

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  • John Borstlap says:

    In this play, Wilde shows us the profound tragedy of the human condition: it’s hilarious.

  • Sisko24 says:

    I saw this production when it was on Broadway. It was worth every penny I spent on it; Brian Bedford was magnificent as were the other actors and actresses in the cast. I mourned his death. But he did leave a masterful delivery of “…a handbag?” for me to savor for all time.

  • Thomas Müthing says:

    I’ve seen this on stage in London in as many as three different versions with three different casts in the past 10 years. The best one was probably David Suchet’s.