Racism. Sexism. Ugly words with a single common thread—the all too human flaw of judging others based solely on outward appearances. Although this flaw can be found in every culture and era, Victorian England perfected it into an art form. Wealthy, fashionable, powerful and highly hypocritical, appearances were everything. As stated by Gwendolyn Fairfax in the play The Importance of Being Earnest, “Style, not sincerity, is the vital thing” (783). And it is this play, written by Irish playwright Oscar Wilde, which mocks and exposes the carefully constructed façade of British high society.
As with any play, though, The Importance of Being Earnest has two settings: then and now. The challenge ...view middle of the document...
At the end, the light gradually fades until there is a soft spotlight on one or more main characters— Algernon in ACT I, Jack and Algernon in ACT II and Lady Bracknell in ACT III—before the theatre becomes completely dark. This fade blacks out the superficial appearances of the set. In spotlighting the characters, the audience is left with a lingering impression of the human core, not the style, of the play.
It would be easy for an audience after watching this play to think that it, while enjoyable, has little relevance to modern life. In order to curb such a thought, Ball State University’s director, Michael Daehn, decided to cut certain lines in the script. The original three-act script by Oscar Wilde was very much a satire, a social commentary of British high society. While effective during his time, many of the minor issues raised are specific to that era and culture. To make the play more relevant to a twenty-first century American audience, various case-specific lines were excluded such as those said by Lady Bracknell to Jack Worthing in ACT I:
Lady Bracknell: “I am pleased to hear it. I do not approve of anything that tampers with natural ignorance. Ignorance is like a delicate exotic fruit; touch it and the bloom is gone. The whole theory of modern education is radically unsound. Fortunately in England, at any rate, education produces no effect whatsoever. If it did, it would prove a serious danger to the upper classes, and probably lead to acts of violence in Grovesnor Square. What is your income?” (page 769; exclusion in italics)
In America, there is no place called Grovesnor Square and, while education may lead to political change, Americans are more likely to better themselves financially than participate in acts of violence as a result of education. By omitting lines and issues specific to Victorian England, the audience is better able to see that although the clothing, accents and setting differ from their own, the people themselves are not as different as might be first believed.
Another director choice...