The Importance of Being Earnest

Jan. 16—March 16 $55–$110
Lansburgh Theatre
450 7th St. NW, Washington, DC
(202) 547-1122
Done with the right touch—a kind of airy, thoughtless conviction—Oscar Wilde’s comedy can be perfectly effervescent. Lean too hard into his wit, though, and...well, let me quote the playwright Jeffrey Hatcher, who writes that it’s easy to overemphasize the clever and “lose ‘the funny.’” The irony is that Hatcher offers that opinion in the Shakespeare Theatre Company’s Asides magazine. The occasion? The company’s production of The Importance of Being Earnest, Wilde’s crowning comic achievement. It’s a shame, really, because the staging looks phenomenal on the page. Keith Baxter, veteran director of Wildean and Restoration comedies, is at the helm. And Gregory Wooddell, matinee-idol star of Baxter’s An Ideal Husband and other Shakespeare Theatre Company outings, is Jack Worthing, wealthy and sardonic and famously related to a handbag.It’s not as though there are no bright spots. Patricia Conolly, not least, is admirably flappable as the prim governess Miss Prism, whose charge Cecily (Katie Fabel) is another of the production’s more gratifyingly unforced presences. Shakespeare Theatre veteran Floyd King, too, turns in a relatively relaxed performance as Canon Chasuble, mildly clueless cleric and maker of fantastically blunt metaphors. [TG]

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