|THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST|
Brian Bedford's sumptuous revival of The Importance of Being Earnest is definitely not a production marked by radical directorial reinterpretation. It's just pure jaunty, frolicsome fun to the nth degree—an enchanting enterprise for actors and audiences alike.
The most surprising thing about this Roundabout Theatre Company staging is that Bedford also turns up in the show—as the hilariously snobbish Lady Bracknell. But even that bit of casting fits. After all, Oscar Wilde's best-known comedy is about mistaken identity and appearances being valued over what's inside. Why not make the casting just as absurd as Wilde's characters.
And what a lot they are. Jack Worthing (David Furr) wants to marry the lovely Gwendolen Fairfax (Sara Topham), the cousin of his pal Algernon Moncrieff (Santino Fontana). But Lady Bracknell, Gwendolen's society-conscious mother, won't consent because Jack doesn't know who his parents were. Algernon, meanwhile, falls for Jack's ward Cecily (Charlotte Parry), who thinks he's really Jack's brother. And both women think their betrotheds are named Ernest—a detail that's not as insignificant as it might seem.
As the satirical antics take flight, so does Bedford's cast. After his dramatic turn as the elder brother in last season's quick-to-close revival of Brighton Beach Memoirs, Fontana proves his versatility with his delightfully daft Algernon. He's matched by Furr, Topham and Parry, who deliver Wilde's finely wrought lines with expert finesse. As does Bedford, who also looks like a well-preserved peacock in costume (and set) designer Desmond Heeley's resplendent frocks. Bedford may make the strongest case yet for nontraditional casting.
By Diane Snyder
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Brian Bedford, Santino Fontana, David Furr, Dana Ivey, Tim MacDonald, Paul O'Brien, Charlotte Parry, Sara Topham, Paxton Whitehead
American Airlines Theatre
227 West 42nd Street
New York, NY 10036