THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST by Oscar Wilde, directed by Simon Wong Ken, with Robert Westgate, Ian Keeling, Sarah Robinson, Olga Konstantulakis and Annabelle Torsein. Presented by Subculture 1975 in the Theatre Passe Muraille Backspace (16 Ryerson). Runs to December 8, Wednesday-Saturday 8 pm, matinee Sunday 2 pm. $10-$14, Sunday pwyc. 416-504-7529. Rating: NN
oscar wilde's the importance of Being Earnest is a marvellous play. Subculture 1975's production captures little of the work's magic.It's an elegant, witty piece that turns convention on its head, drawing humour from the inversion of social norms and a loopy use of logic. Director Simon Wong Ken talks about sassing the original, which might work if you understand what you're sending up.
Why, for instance, give the script a contemporary setting -- the action takes place in Hazelton Lanes and a Muskoka estate -- and then keep all the London place names and British titles? That's one element of many that hasn't been thought out.
The acting is generally no better than the direction, with wooden performances that offer neither style nor humour. The actor worth watching is Sarah Robinson, whose Gwendolen has a sense of comedy, even if its sitcom nature isn't appropriate to Wilde's writing. But why cast as her mother, Lady Bracknell, Annabelle Torsein, who looks more like Gwendolen's sister, and implausibly have the mother flirt with Jack, whom Lady Bracknell rejects as marriage material for Gwendolen?
You're left listening to the well-crafted lines and smiling at the clever plot twists. Not a Wilde time.