THEATER REVIEW: “The Importance of Being Earnest” @ Sand Lake Center for the Arts [Berkshire on Stage]
Review by Gail M. Burns
I am all in favor of community theaters taking risks. And while The Importance of Being Earnest is not generally a risky play to present – if anything the risk obtains in its over familiarity – it is when you present an earlier and longer version of it. I was completely unprepared for the experience, and while I found it alarming not to hear the line I was expecting to hear when I was expecting to hear it, I came away having learned much more about Oscar Wilde as a playwright.
Written in 1895, …Earnest is generally regarded as the perfect comedy. Aside from Shakespeare, Wilde is one of the most widely quoted playwrights, and most of his wittiest and most memorable bon mots come from …Earnest. Most of the famous lines exist in this earlier draft, but they are buried amongst additional nonsense and business – there is even an extra character who appears. Think of the first draft as an unruly hedge which Wilde judiciously pruned over many rewrites until it acquired the shape of the exquisite topiary of the final version.
But people, particularly other artists, are always fascinated by the genesis and development of creation, and so Oliver Parker’s 2002 film version reinstated some of Wilde’s earlier business, including the character of Gribsby, a lawyer who pursues “Ernest Worthing” to Hertfordshire to demand payment for an outstanding debt, who appears in this Circle Theatre Players production at the Sand Lake Center for the Arts in Averill Park as well (in the form of actor Bill Daisak).