The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde is not just an English comedy of manners that while a satire of the upper class in London, but a perfect comedy that answers only to itself. In the words of dramaturg DeAnna Toten Beard, "The play delights in its very existence and in doing so it involves the audience in an independent, self-sustaining world of comedy." The comedy tells the story of Earnest, real name Jack, who is about to ask Gwendolen for her hand in marriage, only she could not love a man not named Earnest. Jack has been "bunburying" as his friend Algernon calls it, Jack is known as Earnest in town when he is visiting his "evil" brother, but Jack decides to "kill" his brother now that he is to marry Gwendolen.
Most importantly both of Jack's parents are dead and Gwendolen's mother Lady Bracknell refuses to allow her daughter to marry a man born in a handbag. In the second act Jack's friend Algernon shows up in Jack's country estate as the wicked brother Earnest whom Jack has just killed. Algernon pretending to be Earnest proposes to Jack's ward Cecily when Gwendolen shows up at Jack's estate and they both find out that they are marrying an "Earnest Worthing". The play resolves with a dues ex machine when Lady Bracknell meets Cecily's governance Ms. Prism and remembers that she left a baby in a hand bag many years ago. In addition Jack's real name is Earnest which means he has a parent and Gwendolen can marry a man named Earnest. The Baylor Theatre production on Saturday April 28, 2007 at the Mabee Theatre did the classic play justice and Oscar Wilde would surely have approved.
One of the strongest points of the Baylor production was the intricate attention to detail by the set designers. While the first act had a bit of a scant stage, two couches, a table and some windows the scenery in acts two and three blew away act one. Act two took place in the garden of Jack's country estate complete with a twenty foot tall front skeleton of a house and act two took place inside of Jack's house, with Victorian era furniture. I feel that the grand scenery really added to realism of the play due to the fact that the actors interacted so much with the props. The first act had Jack and Algernon constantly laying on the couch, standing on window sills or eating cucumber sandwiches. The presence of working doors allowed Jack's butler to comically enter the door, or leave in horror when he met Lady Bracknell. Overall the Baylor production was top notch in all technical aspects which helped me fall into the world created by Oscar Wilde.
The most important part of any play, the actors did a magnificent job portraying the characters of Wilde's Victorian era high society. The cast seemed to bounce off of one another and give the other actor a chance to shine. This was especially true when Jack's butler would have things ready before Algernon would ask for them. The actors themselves obviously worked on believable British accents save for the actress playing Lady Bracknell who used such a hackneyed accent that she bordered on being a parody of the character and almost a detraction from the wonderful actors surrounding her. That is not to say Haley was not a hit with the crowd, but in this reviewers opinion her cast mates were more than willing to share the spot and set each other up while Ms. Phillips stole the show from the other actors and actresses.
In the end I believe that the Baylor production stayed faithful to the spirit of Oscar Wilde's original intent to have this play not to profess any moral message but to be a self sustaining play to amuse oneself and distract from the doldrums of life. The actors did an excellent job at making the audience feel angst and embarrassed when Jack must reveal that he has been leading a double life. Austin Terrell plays a smarmy Algernon who the audience couldn't help but love to hate. In addition, my teacher Whitney Smith attended and I saw her handing out will call tickets, which proves that I actually went and saw the play.