by Brenda W. Clough
We went to the TKTS booth in Leicester Square the first day we arrived and picked up half-price tickets for The Importance of Being Ernest on impulse. It was that or The Pajama Game, and my husband is easily overdosed with musicals. This production is an oddity — a play within a play, the central one being the Oscar Wilde drama you are thinking about when you read the title. The bookending drama is a simple one, an ageing company of players restaging the classic.
One can hardly fail with Wilde, and so the liqueur cherry in the center of this chocolate is yummy in all the proper ways. The outer casing, however, is not quite right. If you have ever seen Noises Off you know how it ought to be. The play on the outside should be no less of a drama: characters, conflict, an arc, all complete and dovetailing neatly and tightly with the play on the inside — commenting on it, reflecting it, supplying a new angle. The bonbon should be a perfect combination, the cherry in the middle and the dark chocolate encasing it.
And in this Importance falls short. The bookending drama is barely worthy of the name; the players’ troubles are vestigial and mildly amusing but no more, and for want of conflict there is no proper conclusion. The thing just ends when Wilde’s play ends. It is as if the playwright lost interest in the chocolate outside, distracted by the delectable booziness of Wilde’s original script in the cherry center. However the cast and production are otherwise dandy (have a look at that set!) and we enjoyed it.