Well, okay, not a book but rather a play, but you can buy it in book form so it still counts. Yes, oh, how cliche, a theatre major recommending you read a play, but don’t knock it until you try it! And reading The Crucible in high school doesn’t count. It’s a good play, but certainly not a good play to be the first someone reads or I swear it could turn them off from theatre forever. But The Importance of Being Earnest is quite the opposite. It’s fast paced and witty and full of fantastically dry Victorian humor and I would say if you haven’t read a play before, this would be a great place to start.
I first fell in love with The Importance of Being Earnest when it was performed at my college. We were studying it quite extensively in my Scenography class as well but I never read it the whole way through until after I had actually seen it. I fell in love with the characters and the portrayal of of them by my friends and I felt the same connection to them when I read it for myself. I may go as far as to say it’s my favorite play, it’s certainly good enough for me to have named one of the Lolita Tips mascots (Gwendolen to be exact) after one of the characters.
The play is set in 1895 in London and revolves around the trouble that arises when two friends use the same pseudonym. It mocks the customs and way of life of upper class Victorian society which is one of the things I love so much about Oscar Wilde. There is so much I could say about this play, but I don’t think any review I could do enough to tell you how fantastic it is. To quote Marnie Brennan, one of my professors and the director when the play was performed at my school, “The Importance of Being Earnest was written, for all intents and purposes, as a joke, albeit an extremely funny one, playing on the meaning or importance of ones name in society. Its original four acts were pared down to three and within that ‘joke’ there resides Oscar Wilde, with all of his colorful, and often controversial, attitudes toward life.”
Whether you consider yourself a theatre person or you’ve never read a play in your life, I highly recommend picking up a copy of this play. If you’re still not sure about it though, at least watch one of the movies. The best thing you can do though is support your community theatres and look around your area to see if there are any performing it! Movies are great and books are fantastic, but plays are meant to be performed and nothing beats seeing it live.