Oscar Wilde’s brilliantly clever comedic masterpiece, The Importance of Being Earnest, was once called by critic W.H. Auden, “the only pure verbal opera in English.” Earnest tells the story of two young gentlemen in London, who each live a double-life, creating elaborate deceptions to find some balance in their lives. John Worthing escapes the burdens of responsibility to have an exciting life in the city, pretending to be his fictitious younger brother Ernest. Algernon Moncrieff, meanwhile, has invented a convenient invalid, Bunbury, whom he uses as an excuse to gallivant off to the country whenever he pleases. When John falls in love with Algernon’s cousin, Gwendolen, he is determined to come clean, but when Gwendolen reveals she can only love a man named Ernest, it somewhat complicates things. When Algernon discovers John’s secret and decides to visit John’s pretty little ward in the country, posing as the debauched “Ernest,” the situation gets entirely more complicated! Hijinks ensue, and the two gentlemen and their ladies are in for more than they ever anticipated when formidable Lady Bracknell, Gwendolen’s mother, begins sleuthing around to uncover the far-fetched truth. Oscar Wilde’s brilliant comedy captures with wit and charm the absurdity and delight of the Victorian “age of surfaces” (as Lady Bracknell calls it,) while capturing the struggle of four passionate lovers trying to conform to expectations and, in the most roundabout and delightfully funny way possible, love who they wish and live how they want.
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