Loading...

The Importance of Being Earnest 

Friday, Jan 27 2006
Comments

THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING ERNEST Peter Hall’s staging sure looks pretty and pretty opulent, which raises the larger question of what our midsize theaters need to do to survive the harrowing era for arts that we’ve all just entered. Like most regional theaters, the Ahmanson is looking backward for both comfort and speed with a celebrity-driven repertory of plays set in bygone times (Dead End, The Drowsy Chaperone and now Ernest) — what used to be called Boulevard Theater. Who could possibly argue with Oscar Wilde and lines such as, “If you are not too long, I will wait here for you all my life”? There’s not a sincere line in the play, which, in a work about double lives and social deceptions, is part of its brilliance. You wouldn’t know from Hall’s production that Wilde was tortured to death in prison for his homosexuality, and that his irreverence and humanity paved the way for Joe Orton. You wouldn’t know this because no trouble has been taken in Kevin Rigdon and Trish Rigdon’s production design to get beyond some stock country-house arches and a rose garden. And no trouble has been taken by Hall to do much beyond fulfill expectations of what Ernest has always looked and sounded like. Lynn Redgrave’s Lady Bracknell displays contagious glee in the way she contorts her lips around Wilde’s lovely epigrams, and spits them out. The problem with this, however, as with the ensemble, is a kind of over-articulated stiffness, particularly by James Waterston’s Jack Worthing. Robert Petkoff’s Algernon fares better, as do Bianca Amato as Gwendolen and the particularly wry and rueful Charlotte Parry as Cecily. When Miriam Margolyes’ rotund Miss Prism shows up, we’re suddenly in Nicholas Nickleby: With the physical humor amped up, other actors’ eyes start bulging in reaction, as though they, and we, have been poked in the ribs. At least it’s refreshing, even if it’s part of a completely different production. If ever there was an era of double lives and doublespeak, we’re in the middle of it. How can a play originally so subversive look so insulated and antique? Probably from the double curse of fear and self-satisfaction. Wilde deserves better, and so do we. Ahmanson Theater, 135 N. Grand Ave., dwntwn.; Tues.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 & 7:30 p.m. (no eve perfs Feb. 5, 19 & March 5; added 2 p.m. perfs Feb. 16 & March 2); thru March 5. (213) 628-2772. (Steven Leigh Morris)

Related Stories

Reach the writer at smorris@laweekly.com

Related Content

Now Trending

  • A Sex Play That's Not Really About Sex

    Oh, sex: Can we ever get over it? And if we do, what will there be to write about? What would the state of the world be if it weren't largely defined by overt and subliminal sexual impulses? Ian MacAllister-McDonald's new play, The Sexual Lives of Savages, presented by Skylight...

Slideshows

  • A Day in Griffith Park
    Pack a picnic basket and escape the hustle and bustle of L.A. by spending the day in beautiful Griffith Park.Stop and grab a cold drink at Trails, then go hike. Stroll around the Observatory. Cruise past The Greek Theater to the Bird Sanctuary, or practice golf and grab a snack at the Roosevelt Cafe. Just remember, you don't need to be a tourist to enjoy what Griffith Park has to offer. All photos by Michele McManmon.
  • FANFARE-LA: Fine Art Nude, Fetish, and Risque Exhibition (NSFW)
    FANFARE-LA, the Fine Art Nude, Fetish, and Risque Exhibition was held Jan. 31st to Feb. 2nd at the Hamilton Galleries in Santa Monica. Here is a peek of the sexually-charged, fetish-fine art that is featured in the show. More info at fanfare-la.com.
  • Gloryhole 2013 @ The Pleasure Chest
    The Pleasure Chest's annual anniversary party, Gloryhole, took place Thursday night, transforming the popular West Hollywood sex shop into a pleasure den filled opportunities to get spanked, tied up and dominated. For those of a more voyeuristic nature, the live XXX Gloryhole installation offered a glimpse of erotic play and sexuality. All photos by Nanette Gonzales.