Oscar Wilde was a lamp light of modernity in the fog of 1890s London. Irish by birth, he took shots at English society and relationships at a time when it was easy to be ostracized for being different. (You have to love a man who entered the US in 1882 by stating: "I have nothing to declare but my genius.")
"The Importance of Being Earnest" was written in 1895, five years before the author's death. It was fresh then. But it is 2013.
Victorian society has become an easy target, even when set on Carnaby Street in the mod 1960s, so we would have loved to see Paul Gordon and Jay Gruska, the songwriting team with a pedigree for taking classical stories and turning them into musicals, try a different approach then one familiar English cliché after another. The World Premiere of Gordon and Gruska's "Being Earnest" has some cute songs and funny moments, but that's about it.
Euan Morton and Hayden Tee, as the two would-be Earnests, are fine singers, as are Mindy Lym as Gwendolen Fairfax and Riley Krull as Cecily Cardew. But the songs are one-trick ponies, one jumpy and witty tune after another. There are two standouts: "Brothers," the show's featured song, which is repeated throughout the show with changed lyrics, and "Cecily," sung by Morton in Act One.
"Being Earnest" is well constructed, acted and directed. It will bring a smile to your face. Just don't look for too much more.
RATINGS ☼ ☼ ☼ BANG
The San Francisco Theater Blog Awards Division awards "The Importance of Being Earnest" Three Stars with a BANGLE OF PRAISE. If you love Oscar Wilde, you'll enjoy a familiar, entertaining evening of thee-a-tah. The BANGLE goes to Costume Designer Fumiko Bielefeldt for Gwendolen's Carnaby Street dress and matching boots, plus the white hat. When you call up a single memory of this production, it's going to be this dress.
Mountain View Center for Performing Arts
500 Castro Street, Mountain View
Through April 28