(Photo By Teena Pugliese)
The Importance of Being Earnest
Let Live Theatre through June 22
A new theatre company called Queer Classics lives up to its name with its unabashedly gay adaptation of the classic Oscar Wilde farce The Importance of Being Earnest, premiering at the Hollywood Fringe Festival. As with most of Wilde’s plays, there is something intrinsically queer about the sensibility of the original 1895 script, even though the characters were heterosexual. Queerness sort of seeps out between the lines in most works of the celebrated Irish scribe, whose own tragic true story is so eloquently told in Moises Kaufman’s masterful docudrama Gross Indecency: The Three Trials of Oscar Wilde.
Rather than opting for cross-dressing (which has sometimes been done with the role of haughty dowager Lady Bracknell), this reimagining of the material goes further, by actually casting the two female ingénue characters as fetching young men, while retaining their female names (Grant Jordan as Cecily and Mason McCulley as Gwendolen). So in this version, queerness is evident in both the story and the main characters. Besides this, director Casey Kringlen has streamlined the three-act play to a taut 90 minutes. The result is an entertaining bit of fluff that feels less like a Victorian-era drawing-room classic than a Wilde comedy of manners filtered through a cheeky Harvey Feinstein type of sensibility—La Cage Aux Wilde, if you will.
Mistaken identities lead to frantic complications when country lad Jack (Boone Platt) uses the pseudonym “Ernest” to present himself as a dapper sophisticate in the city, while leading a boring life in the country, as he serves as guardian to young Cecily. Jack’s friend Algernon (Philip Orazio) confesses to a similar ruse, using the fake name Bunbury. Meanwhile Jack loves young Gwendolen, Algernon’s cousin, while Algernon strikes a fancy for Cecily. Will true romance win out or will the frenetic machinations of the young men lead to calamity?
As the two smitten protagonists, Platt and Orazio are drolly amusing. In the roles of the objects of their affection, Jordan and McCulley mine the gender-bending gambit for maximum hilarity, and a huge dose of camp. Lending able support are Nancy La Scalla, Megan Soule, and Jeff Elam as elder characters, while Eric Deloretta evokes laughs in two servant roles. This is a promising bow for an adventurous new company.
Fringe Festival reservations can be obtained at hollywoodfringe.org. This production is also part of the City of West Hollywood's One City One Pride LGBTQ Arts Festival, celebrating marriage equality.