AISLE SAY New Jersey


by Oscar Wilde
Directed by David Schweitzer
Starring Lynn Redgrave
Paper Mill Playhouse / Milburn, NJ

Reviewed by David Spencer

At the Paper Mill Playhouse, director David Schweitzer’s production of The Importance of Being Earnest is competent and professional, but, unusually for him, a stylistic misfire. The trick of this Oscar Wilde play of manners is to have the actors play its trivialities as if they were of life-and-death importance—not without comic flair, of course, but for real stakes and with utter sincerity. Mr. Schweitzer, however, has his cast playing it all with such high verbal style—rather like the Monty Python “very witty, Wilde” sketch—that the net effect is to make it seem as if the characters themselves are trivial, because they spend so much time posturing. Thus the sweetness of the play is gone, and without heart, you can’t really invest in anyone, and all the quips become a little exhausting. The cast is excellent, however, and, wouldn’t you know, Lynn Redgrave, who plays (of course) Lady Bracknell, is such an accomplished grande dame of the theatre that she manages to serve both the play and Schweitzer’s heightened approach as well. Then again, Bracknell is the one role that can stand securely with a foot in each camp. With a handbag in either…

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