<b>ARMY LISTS CONSULTED:</b>  The denouement of <i>Earnest</i> featured cast members (from left to right) Adrian Carter, Alison WIlson, Ian Elliott, Avila Reese, and Zachary Macias (seated).

David Bazemore

ARMY LISTS CONSULTED: The denouement of Earnest featured cast members (from left to right) Adrian Carter, Alison WIlson, Ian Elliott, Avila Reese, and Zachary Macias (seated).

Review: The Importance of Being Earnest at UCSB

New Interpretation of Oscar Wilde’s Classic Comedy Falters

Oscar Wilde famously wrote of his greatest play, “It is written by a butterfly for butterflies.” This production of The Importance of Being Earnest, although buoyed by a pair of fine performances by Quinlan Fitzgerald and Alison Wilson, sinks under the weight of an error in understanding the play’s central figure, Lady Bracknell. Rebecca Mason, the senior BFA acting student who showed such comedic brilliance as Bottom in UCSB’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, has here been encouraged to depart not only from tradition but also from any kind of good sense in an interpretation of Lady Bracknell.

As written by Wilde, Lady Bracknell’s pronouncements are a classic example of structural irony — in other words, the character does not, and must not, know that she is funny. From Mason’s first entrance, it was clear that this performance would depart radically from the conventional approach. Ordinarily, the role is presented, as Harold Bloom has written of the turn given by Dame Edith Evans, “as it must be performed, with Wagnerian severity and frowning high seriousness.” Mason takes the opposite tack, offering an ironic Lady Bracknell who laughs at her own jokes and who gets upset when things don’t go her way.

A carefree Hamlet could be okay, and Falstaff as an ascetic killjoy might be fine, but a self-aware Lady Bracknell? To paraphrase Gwendolen, “I am known for the gentleness of my disposition, and the extraordinary sweetness of my nature, but I warn you … you may go too far.”

To submit a comment on this article, email or visit our Facebook page. To submit information to a reporter, email

Be succinct, constructive, and relevant to the story. Leaving a comment means you agree to our Discussion Guidelines. We like civilized discourse. We don't like spam, lying, profanity, harassment or personal attacks.

comments powered by Disqus
event calendar sponsored by:

Gaviota Coast Matriarch Passes Away

Singer Elizabeth Hvolboll held a trove of Refugio region memories.

Both Sides Draw Blood in Dario Pini Trial

The courtroom drama opened with questions about who should have control over how many properties.

Pair of F-22s Buzz Santa Barbara City College

Turbulence rattles windows and nerves on Monday morning.

Mandatory Evacuation Called for Fire Zones in Santa Barbara County

Heavy rains expected Tuesday-Thursday; debris flows feared.

Cannabis Farmer Gets Over $1 Million Insurance Payout

Thomas Fire ash destroys crop; analysis finds asbestos, lead, arsenic, and magnesium.