Oscar Wilde wrote The Importance of Being Earnest over 100 years ago. Since then, the “trivial comedy for serious people” has seen many incarnations. It was made into a movie in 1952 starring Michael Redgrave. It has been produced on stage numerous times including a recent Off Broadway production at the Irish Repertory Theatre starring Eric Stoltz, Melissa Errico, and the late Nancy Marchand (in her final New York stage appearance.) And, the play has also seen many adaptations, such as the Off-Off Broadway version, The All-Male Importance of Being Earnest.
Now, Earnest has become Ernest in the New Punctuation Army’s new musical rendition of the Wilde classic, playing at the newly named Jose Quintero Theatre. The show opened June 30 and ends its scheduled run July 9. The new adaptation, with book and lyrics by Gayden Wren and music by Vance Lehmkuhl, combines a bit of Wilde’s words with Wren’s rewrites, and adds some new stylized dialogue.
Wren directs his creation, along with Stephen O’ Leary, who musical directs a cast that includes: Brian Bartley, Chris Bock, Simon Chaussé, Lorraine DeMan, Jay Haddad, Sara Elizabeth Holliday, Kathleen McClafferty, Randy Nowak, and Annette Triquére. Set design is provided by Daniel Jagendorf with lights and costumes by Janette Kennedy.
New Punctuation Army was founded in 1985 by Wren and Kennedy to produce original theatre. Other productions have included Baseball, Sex, and Other Facts of Life and Very Truly Yours, Gilbert & Sullivan. Upcoming projects are One More, with music by Lehmkuhl and A Gilbert & Sullivan Christmas Carol.
Tickets for this New York premiere of Ernest at the Jose Quintero Theatre, 534 West 42nd St. (between 10th and 11th Ave.), can be purchased for $20 by calling (212) 254-5857. -- by Ernio Hernandez