A wealthy philanthropist adopts an abandoned baby he finds in a railway station waiting room. The child grows into a fine, upstanding young man. When his benefactor dies, he is made the guardian of the old man's lovely young daughter. But unknown to everyone, he leads a double life that even his best friend knows nothing about...
If you thought that this has all the makings of a most sinister and diabolical plot, you couldn't be more mistaken. The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde is a light as a feather confection, full of mischief, fun and laughter!
Written in 1894, this was Wilde's last play. It went on stage on Valentine's Day 1895 and received the most whole hearted and fulsome applause that had ever greeted a contemporary play. Reviewers complained that there was hardly a moment where the audience could stop laughing! It was seen as a wonderful triumph, the work of a master craftsman working at the height of his powers. However, in fifteen weeks Oscar Wilde was in jail. The sensational trial and the humiliating personal exposure of his private life, the loss of his reputation and his final bankruptcy are all part of literary history.
The Importance of Being Earnest, A Trivial Comedy for Serious People to give it its full name is an utterly delightful, frothy creation, with elements of farce, non-stop humor and a veritable tsunami of brilliantly comic one-liners. The three-act play takes place in Algernon Moncrieff's rooms on Half-Moon Street in London and the country house at Woolton. Algernon Moncrieff's best friend is Ernest, a fine young gentleman. Ernest is also in love with Algernon's cousin, Gwendolen. But Ernest is not what he seems. He is actually Jack Worthing, who lives a quiet life. He is wealthy and a Justice of the Peace in Hertfordshire, guardian of his dead benefactor's young daughter, Cecily. Both Cecily and Gwendolen are for some reason, obsessed with the name “Ernest” and what follows is a madcap ride through Victorian tea parties, country house snobbery and mistaken identities.
Many critics have carped that The Importance of Being Earnest does not tackle any serious social or political issues. It was considered pure entertainment and mere clever nonsense. However, its sheer entertainment value cannot be denied and it has remained one of Oscar Wilde's most staged plays. Serious actors like John Gielgud have played Jack, Peggy Ashcroft has played Cecily and one reviewer even remarked that it was the second most performed English play after Shakespeare's Hamlet!
As a light hearted, wacky laugh a minutecreation The Importance of Being Earnest has few rivals.