Although Irish playwright Oscar Wilde set out to lampoon Victorian society when he wrote his final play “The Importance of Being Earnest,” his light-hearted look at marriage, morals and mistaken identity remains a hugely popular work with today’s audiences.
Medina County Showbiz Company is banking on that enduring appeal to draw audiences to their production of Wilde’s most successful comedy opening Friday at the Haddad Theater in the Medina County Administration Building, 144 N. Broadway St., Medina.
“One of my favorite things about this play is that we’re able to laugh at the jokes because the human condition is the same as when Wilde wrote it,” said director J.T. Buck, a graduate of University of Akron with a bachelor’s degree in theater.
When Earnest debuted in 1895 at the St. James Theater in London, writer H.G. Wells weighed in on the play calling it “one of the freshest comedies of the year.”
Veering away from the melodramas of the day, Wilde satirized the refined sensibilities of the Victorian era including the prudish rituals of courtship. He subtitled his play “A Trivial Comedy for Serious People.”
“Wilde critiques society without judging it,” Buck explained, “It’s the idea of society having a good laugh at itself, of society not taking itself too seriously.”
For those who love a good comedy, Wilde’s satire is filled with absurd comedic lines, including the following exchange between the characters Jack Worthing and Gwendolen Fairfax:
Jack: “Gwendolen, it is a terrible thing for a man to find out suddenly that all his life he has been speaking nothing but the truth. Can you forgive me?”
Gwendolen: “I can. For I feel that you are sure to change.”
With a cast of eight, the comedy “will introduce audiences to a few new faces, plus they’ll recognize actors from previous productions,” Buck said, adding, “We have some excellent actors in the cast, including Patrick Dukeman as Lady Bracknell.
“For the past 20 or 30 years, there’s been a tradition of a man playing the role of Lady Bracknell. It adds another layer of comedy, in the tradition of Monty Python.”
Buck added to the front of the stage to bring the action closer to the audience.
“A little known fact of the 1890s is that audiences interacted with the players,” he said. “Comedy works better when it’s closer to the audience. An actor can hear the laughter and respond to it.”
Mainly Buck said he hopes that audiences will appreciate the absurd situations in the play, “Have a good time, have a good laugh,” he said.
Which may be how Oscar Wilde felt about it, too.
Contact reporter Nancy Johnson at (330) 721-4065 or firstname.lastname@example.org.