Brian Bedford Is Lady Bracknell in Broadway Earnest, Beginning Dec. 17

By Kenneth Jones
December 17, 2010

Tony Award winner Brian Bedford steps into Victorian petticoats and dour lace to play Lady Bracknell in Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest, starting Dec. 17 at the American Airlines Theatre.



The Roundabout Theatre Company production, to officially open Jan. 13, 2011, borrows some cast members and elements of actor-director Bedford's 2009 acclaimed revival produced by Canada's Stratford Shakespeare Festival, where Bedford is a beloved fixture.

Paxton Whitehead, Santino Fontana, David Furr, Tim MacDonald, Paul O'Brien, Charlotte Parry, Sara Topham, Amanda Leigh Cobb and Dana Ivey join Bedford in his production of the classic 1895 comedy that pokes fun at social conventions and marital pursuit.

In Earnest, according to Roundabout, "dashing men-about-town John Worthing and Algernon Moncrieff pursue fair ladies Gwendolen Fairfax and Cecily Cardew. Matters are complicated by the imaginary characters invented by both men to cover their on-the-sly activities — not to mention the disapproval of Gwendolen's mother, the formidable Lady Bracknell."

Bedford told Playbill magazine in recent weeks, "There's a sort of laser-like perception of the hypocrisy of the Victorian era, the pseudo-morality. Everything was hidden. I think there were more brothels in London during Victorian times than there ever had been or ever has been. And, of course, the lady on the throne called the shots. I've read a great deal about what people have thought of this play, and nobody has ever mentioned the similarity between Lady Bracknell and Queen Victoria. It's so striking, to me. That was part of the subversive nature of this play. It's a very subversive play."

Ivey (Butley, Driving Miss Daisy) plays Miss Prism, Whitehead (Absurd Person Singular, My Fair Lady, Lettice and Lovage) plays Reverend Chasuble, Fontana (Billy Elliot) plays Algernon Moncrieff, Furr (Accent on Youth, Cymbeline) plays Jack Worthing, MacDonald plays Merriman, O'Brien plays Lane, Parry (Coram Boy) plays Cecily Cardew and Topham plays Gwendolyn, with O'Brien as Lane and Cobb as Servant.

This is a limited engagement through March 6, 2011.

The production team includes Desmond Heeley (sets & costumes), Duane Schuler (lights), Drew Levy (sound), Berthold Carrière (original music), Paul Huntley (hair and wig design), Robyn Henry (production stage manager) and Bryce McDonald (stage manager).

British-born international star Bedford (a Tony winner for The School for Wives, and a six-time nominee) returns to Roundabout Theatre Company after performances as Orgon in Tartuffe, Sir Harcourt Courtly in London Assurance and Sganarelle in The Molière Comedies.

Ivey returns to Roundabout after playing Grace in the 2003 production of A Day in the Death of Joe Egg and the 2001 production of Major Barbara, where she played Lady Britomart Undershaft.

The company also includes Sean Arbuckle, Colin McPhillamy and Sandra Shipley.

Tickets are available by calling Roundabout Ticket Services at (212) 719-1300, online at www.roundabouttheatre.org or at the American Airlines Box Office (227 West 42nd Street).