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Oscar Wilde's "The Importance of Being Earnest" at the American Airlines Theatre
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Oscar Wilde's "The Importance of Being Earnest" at the American Airlines Theatre

- Backstage with the Playwrights

Salon Ziba

200 West 57th Street
New York, NY
Open seven days a week
Ask for Alonso

Roundabout Theatre Company
Todd Haimes, Artistic Director
Harold Wolpert, Managing Director
Julia C. Levy, Executive Director


Brian Bedford
The Importance of Being Earnest

By Oscar Wilde
(Oscar Wilde Bio)

Paxton Whitehead, Santino Fontana,
David Furr, Tim MacDonald, Paul O’Brien,
Charlotte Parry, Sara Topham, Amanda Leigh Cobb
Dana Ivey

Directed by Brian Bedford

At the
American Airlines Theatre
227 West 47th Street

Set & Costume Design: Desmond Heeley
Lighting Design: Duane Schuler
Sound Design: Drew Levy
Original Music: Berthold Carriere
Hair & Wig Design: Paul Huntley
Dialect Consultant: Elizabeth Smith
Production Stage Manager: Robyn Henry
Production Management: Aurora Productions
Casting: Jim Carnahan, CSA, Carrie Gardner, CSA,
& Kate Boka, CSA
General Manager: Rebecca Habel
Press: Boneau/Bryan-Brown
Director of Marketing - Sales Promotions: David B. Steffen
Founding Director: Gene Feist
Assoc. Artistic Director: Scott Ellis

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
January 19, 2011

Brian Bedford’s interpretation of the infamous and intimidating Lady Bracknell, in Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest, was exemplary and quintessentially hilarious, and he directed the show, as well. For review purposes, we’ll refer to Bracknell as “she”. She was done up in satin, lace, and tall plumed hats, and, with understated makeup, her expressions of disdain, arrogance, greed, and self-adulation were stunning. She had the air of a late 19th century Lady of the Manor, but she was ultimately outwitted by her nephew Algernon Moncrieff (Santino Fontana) and his friend John “Jack” Worthing (David Furr). This high farce and comedy of manners was also inhabited by Lady Bracknell’s daughter, Gwendolyn Fairfax (Sara Topham), Jack Worthing’s young ward, Cecily Cardew (Charlotte Parry), Cecily’s teacher, Miss Prism (Dana Ivey), and the Reverend Canon Chasuble (Paxton Whitehead), plus servants, etc.

Jack has a convenient fantasy brother, “Ernest”, who’s a full-time troublemaker, needing high maintenance, out of town mentoring from his well-to-do brother, who owns land and has community responsibilities. Algernon has a convenient fantasy friend, an invalid, who also needs him for periods of time, allowing Algernon to establish his own private time. Jack proposes to Gwendolyn, but must meet Lady Bracknell’s scrutinizing societal tests. Algernon falls in love with Cecily, but Jack won’t give her away in marriage, a match that would fill Algernon’s bank account, and subsequently Lady Bracknell’s, as Cecily will come into a fortune. Lady Bracknell must first give Jack permission to wed Gwendolyn, and so on. There’s a sub-plot of the leads pretending to be named Ernest, as both fiancées think they’re engaged to Ernest, and then revelations of Jack’s true bloodline, stemming from being found in a handbag at a train station. This is where Miss Prism, the fussy, feisty school marm, is woven into the web. Even the Reverend waxes flirtatious, bringing out Ms. Ivey’s vast versatile talents.

Santino Fontana as Algernon is entertaining, humorously attired, and quips with clear, rhythmic repartee. David Furr as Jack is more restrained, but Jack’s been bred on the manor, is well educated and attuned to fine living. Ms. Topham and Ms. Parry embody ladies of springtime, with fanciful airs, but when backed into corners, they strengthen their backs and win their games. Desmond Heeley’s costumes are outstanding, each ruffle and feather a work of art, while his sets, as well, are luxurious and transporting. Drew Levy’s sound design was crisp, as the English accents were quite audible and fine-tuned. (Thanks as well to Elizabeth Smith, dialect coach). But, it’s all about Lady Bracknell, and she grips the imagination and rivets the eye, whenever she’s onstage. Mr. Bedford has magnetic presence, possession of the stage, and full command of his role that’s been played for well over a century. This was Oscar Wilde’s final play, and weeks after it opened in 1895, he was imprisoned after a libel lawsuit with the Marquess of Queensberry. Wilde died in 1900. Kudos to Brian Bedford.

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For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at