The Roundabout Theatre in New York in association with LA Theatre Works (which up to now has mainly done radio dramas) and By Experience have jumped on the Live in HD bandwagon to present one of the hits of the last Broadway season. This production of The Importance of Being Earnest was directed by its star, Brian Bedford. He first encountered the challenge of directing the play and playing Lady Bracknell (the Gorgon) in Stratford, Canada and following its success there decided to bring it to Broadway. The show is a triumph and gives us yet another chance to see this comic masterpiece by Oscar Wilde but also enables us to once again glimpse the comic genius of Brian Bedford.
The watermark for any production is the great classic movie of the play with Edith Evans, Michael Redgrave, Joan Greenwood, Dorothy Tutin, and Margaret Rutherford. This remains one of my favorite movies of all time. It is an exquisite gem. This new production is, for me, a close second, thanks to the delightful cast and Bedford’s memorable performance. Bedford, as a comic actor, can do more with a pause, silence, and an arched brow better than any actor living. I will never forget his Arnolphe in Moliere’s School for Wives on Broadway. As Lady Bracknell he is simply sublime. Other men have attempted to play this formidable old lady but none has succeeded like Mr. Bedford. He squeezes every last drop of comedy out of his lines and not by being camp but by being serious.
The rest of the cast is very good too. Santino Fontana is Algernon Montcrieff (love that name). David Furr is memorable as Jack/Earnest. Cecily is played by Charlotte Perry and Gwendolen by Sara Topham. Paxton Whitehead and Dana Ivey have a fun time with Casuble and Prism. By agreement The Importance of Being Earnest can only be shown four times. The remaining times in Los Angeles are June 23 and 26 at the James Bridges Theatre at UCLA. For showings in other cities, visit the Roundabout website.