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Wilde and Witty

Wednesday, March 14, 2018
By Deepa Gahlot

“The truth is rarely pure and never simple.”

“All women become like their mothers. That is their tragedy. No man does, and that is his.”

“In matters of grave importance, style, not sincerity, is the vital thing.”

Oh! it is absurd to have a hard-and-fast rule about what one should read and what one shouldn't. More than half of modern culture depends on what one shouldn't read.”

"That we should treat all trivial things in life very seriously, and all serious things of life with a sincere and studied triviality. “To lose one parent, Mr. Worthing may be regarded as misfortune. To lose both can be regarded as more like carelessness.”

These witty lines belong to Oscar Wilde’s timeless play 'The Importance of Being Earnest'.  A farce about deception, mistaken identities, the triviality of romance and the empty-headedness of the English aristocracy was written with razor-sharp humour and peppered with quotable quotes that have survived the intervening decades. The play that first opened in 1895, can still amuse and enthrall an audience over a century later, more so if they can see beyond the Wodehousian silliness of the characters to the satire on British society.

Jeff Goldberg’s new production, with young actors from his acting studio was performed at the perfect venue —  the grand Royal Opera House. With a simple but appropriate set and well-designed (with a couple of exceptions) costumes, the play had the audience laughing at the absurd situations, even though the actors dampened some of the punchlines with poor delivery.

John ‘Jack’ Worthing (Takshay Tarneja) has invented a black sheep brother Earnest, which permits him to leave his country estate and go to the city; his buddy Algernon ‘Algie’ Moncrieff (Shreyas Porus Pardiwalla) has invented a sickly friend Bunbury who lives in the country and helps him escape his social obligations in London, particularly avoiding his “gorgon” of an Aunt Augusta, or Lady Bracknell (Neeti Singhi).

Jack is in love with Lady Bracknell’s daughter Gwendolen (Taniya Kalra) who believes he is Earnest, and for some reason wants to marry a man with that name. ‘Algie’ goes to Jack’s country manor, meets and falls for his young ward Cecily (Pashmina Roshan), pretending to be Earnest, just when Jack has decided to kill off the fictional brother. Gwendolen ran away from home and arrives at the manor too, and the non-existent Earnest causes a great deal of confusion, till everything is solved most satisfactorily— even Jack’s mysterious past.

Helen Absalom as the governess Miss Prism, Sankalp Joshi as the priest Dr. Chasuble and Ankit Narang as the butler make up the rest of the cast.

The actors playing an Victorian comedy of manners — a period and style probably unfamiliar to them — got into the spirit of it, but would require a few more shows to get comfortable with the accent and mannerisms. Still, the production is enjoyable, and the credit goes to Oscar Wilde.

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