Audiences will run “Wilde” this month at Everyman Theatre’s production of The Importance of Being Earnest. Running through December 30th, the production directed by Joseph Ritsch is Oscar Wilde’s much-loved tour-de-farce which lampoons Victorian norms. Audiences will enjoy a jovial joyride of double lives, double entendres, and labyrinthine twists and turns.

Algernon’s cousin Gwendolen and her friend Cecily both fall for a man named Ernest (of whom Lady Bracknell disapproves), but whether wit or wisdom will prevail is anybody’s guess. Courtships, class, and convention square off with handbags, puns, and perambulators in this deliciously quotable comedy. Company member Bruce Randolph Nelson, who plays Lady Bracknell, recently chatted with Baltimore OUTloud (in full costume and make up) to describe the upcoming performance.

Frankie Kujawa: What can audiences expect from this fresh rendition of Wilde’s classic?

Bruce Randolph Nelson: A fun time, for sure. This is one of the rare times that Everyman gets to do a production that the entire family can come and enjoy. The word play will be fun, and certainly a man in a woman’s dress is pretty funny, and a fun side-gag. For those audience members who will be able to see beyond the fluff, they’ll find some great language in the production. It’s a comedy of manners that doesn’t slack on the side of skewering social mores and pretensions.

Could you describe a little about your character, Lady Bracknell?

She’s a battle-axe in a lot of ways. She is like a bull in a china shop. She wants her daughter married to the right kind of young man. As a Victorian woman, there are some very high standards that men and women had to abide by. [Bracknell] has decided that she is the arbiter of high standards and she will not cut anyone any slack. She keeps the audience, and her daughter, on a short, controlled leash.

With new motion pictures and biographies being released, why do you think that Oscar Wilde has seen such a resurgence lately?

You know, it’s funny. The fall from grace that Wilde experienced is one of the reasons why the play survives. And, right now, we are in a time, culturally, when gay marriage seems threatened. I don’t know how legitimate the fear is, but I think that when you look at the way the Supreme Court is stacked – we are threatened with constriction if nothing else. Another reason this resonates now is because this is a gay playwright, and how much we need to feature him. But, we also need some fun theatre to go to and forget for a little bit.

What are some of the themes explored in this play?

Well, you take any play and it’s going to hit on three things – love, power and control. The prevailing theme here is you have lovers who want each other, but suddenly can’t have each other, or they love each other and suddenly they don’t want each other. It’s certainly a love entanglement, but also the struggle for who has the power. Who can control their power and can have the upper hand?

How does this performance explore the roles of gender and sexuality for audiences?

One of the roles this play explores, gender-wise, asks who really has the power and who wields the power? The women in Earnest are very adept at playing society’s game. It seems like these women definitely know what’s going on, and Wilde wrote them that way. He wrote them to be definitely more smarter and more in control than women may have been during that time. t

Everyman Theatre will also present “Go Oscar Wilde” Pride Night during the run of The Importance of Being Earnest. Held on Friday, December 14th, audiences can celebrate the holiday season in community with discounted tickets and a pre-show happy hour featuring drink specials, light nosh, and a conversation with Director Joseph W. Ritsch about his inspiration for the show and the meaningful, relevant history of playwright Oscar Wilde’s life. Save 10% on tickets to The Importance of Being Earnest with code GOWILDE19. For more info, visit: Everymantheatre.org.

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Frankie Kujawa
Frankie Kujawa
Since 2011, arts writer Frankie Kujawa has covered a wide scope of entertainment stories and celebrity interviews. From the late Carrie Fisher and LGBTQ icon George Takei to comedians Lily Tomlin and Kathy Griffin to performer Idina Menzel, Kujawa’s candid interview ability brings readers past the byline and into the heart of the story. His unbiased previews of Baltimore-Washington’s theatre scene have allowed readers an inside glimpse of today’s most popular local and national performances. A Baltimore-native, Kujawa is proud to call Charm City his home.
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