The original 1895 London stage production of The Importance of Being Earnest was, ironically, both the peak of Oscar Wilde’s career as a playwright and the beginning of his public disgrace. On opening night, he got wind of a plot by the Marquess of Queensberry, the father of Wilde’s lover Lord Alfred Douglas, to toss the author a bouquet of rotten vegetables at curtain call to draw attention to his secret double life as a homosexual. Wilde arranged for the police to bar the Marquess from entering the theatre, but the feud quickly escalated into charges of libel. The brilliant Irish playwright was ultimately imprisoned for “gross indecency” and soon ended his career in exile in Paris, dying penniless at the age of 46.
Fortunately, times have become a little less harsh for gay artists, and the world has once again embraced the classic works of this great Victorian wit. Today, The Importance of Being Earnest: A Trivial Comedy for Serious People is widely recognized as the epitome of Wilde’s facetious and farcical art, skewering the pretensions of the British upper crust with memorable one-liners as two social-climbing gentlemen each masquerade as someone named Ernest in order to arrange an advantageous marriage.
Stephen Balantzian directs the student production of Earnest currently running at SUNY-Ulster in Stone Ridge. Performances this second weekend will begin at 8 p.m. on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, April 19 through 21, and at 3 p.m. on Sunday, April 22. Tickets can be purchase at the door of Quimby Theater for a suggested donation of $10. For more information call the box office at (845) 688-1959 for more information, or visit https://apps.sunyulster.edu/events/122.