We are familiar with classics like Shakespeare and the Greeks, among others, of resetting their stories in place and time. It seems almost incumbent upon directors and producers to re-imagine how a story-of-old can be framed to connect with a contemporary audience. There is also the daunting challenge of re-interpreting a play such as Hamlet so that audiences sit up, alert and clear-thinking/hearing. The concepts executed are tested against the texts themselves and, in the process, we are able to see and learn whether the retrofit holds together or devolves into window-dressing and little more. The Williamstown Theatre Festival is currently featuring a conceptual approach to Oscar Wilde’s masterpiece, The Importance of Being Earnest, and both during its three acts and afterward I was forced to wonder how even one of the many talented hands at work didn’t seem to stop long enough to say, “Let’s take a moment to rethink this thing.”
So misguided and misdirected is this production, that I think it best to say that the play will close, the actors will find other more well-fitting roles, that the creative team will go their separate ways and that the Williamstown Theatre Festival will take a long breath before they again decide to re-imagine what needs no re-imagining. I am no purist, but I find the waste of talent, money and imagination on display a very dispiriting affair, indeed.
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