Thursday, June 16, 2011

'The Importance of Being Earnest' on the Big Screen

left to right: Santino Fontana, Charlotte Parry, Sarah Topham and David Furr
(all images: Joan Marcus)
This weekend theatre fans will have the choice of seeing one or two shows filmed live in New York City earlier this year. The first is 'Company' (see review) which premiered last night on movie screens nationwide. Tonight a filmed presentation of the Roundabout Theatre Company's revival of Oscar Wilde's 'The Importance of Being Earnest' premieres continues limited showings throughout the month.

This would be a treat for me since the production will be closing before my next visit to NYC later this month. In addition at $20 for a movie ticket compared to a top $127 Broadway ticket the screening was a bargain.

Filmed live on March 11 & 12, 2011 at the American Airlines Theatre in New York City, this classic farce is about mistaken identity, which ridicules codes of propriety and etiquette. Dashing men-about-town John Worthing and Algernon Moncrieff pursue fair ladies Gwendolen Fairfax and Cecily Cardew. Matters are complicated by the imaginary characters invented by both men to cover their on on-the-sly activities, not to mention the disapproval of Gwendolen's mother, the formidable Lady Bracknell.

The cast is lead by director Brian Bedford as Lady Bracknell. David Furr (John), Santino Fontana (Algernon), Sara Topham (Gwendolyn) and Charlotte Perry (Cecily) play the young romantics. Dana Ivey, Paxton Whitehead, Paul O'Brien and Tim MacDonald complete the cast.

David Furr and Santino Fontana
Brian Bedford and Charlotte Parry
The production is very different from the 2002 film adaptation that starred Reese Witherspoon, Colin Firth, Rupert Everett, Frances O'Connor and Judi Dench (as Lady Bracknell). The glory of this revival from the Roundabout Theatre is the well chosen cast who lifts Wilde's words from the pages into larger than life characters and deliver every comic subtlety. Bedford is especially delicious with each line he utters. Fontana as Algernon is exceptionally funny and continues a string of diverse roles that confirms he is among the brightest young stars on Broadway. Sumptuous set designs and costumes add to the entertaining performances. It's always a joy to witness stage pros Ivey and Whitehead on stage again but Furr, Topham and Perry hold their own as the entanglements become more complex as the show's story progresses. It's a play with no pretensions other than to be just silly fun.

Unfortunately unlike 'Company' the night before which played to an almost full house, 'Earnest' only played to a very small crowd at the same movie theatre. This was an evening performance and one would wonder if 'Earnest' would attract a larger crowd during a scheduled matinee over the weekend.

See the next post for video clips of the production. The film was screened at the Kahala Theatre in Honolulu, Hawaii.

'The Importance of Being Earnest' is presented in HD on select screens nationwide at various dates and times through June 30th. Check your local listings for participating theatres, dates and show times or click HERE to find a theatre near you. The show is currently playing an extended run at the American Airlines Theatre in New York City. Visit for tickets. The production which opened on January 13, 2011 (previews from December 17, 2010) closes on June 26, 2011.

Sarah Topham, David Furr and Brian Bedford
Dana Ivey and Paxton Whitehead


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