The All-Male Importance of Being Earnest, first seen in the New York International Fringe Festival in summer 1998, closes its three-month run at the Duplex in Greenwich Village Jan. 30, but Hugh Hysell's gay rewrite of the Oscar Wilde classic may be coming to a North American theatre near you.
Hysell has copyrighted his version of the public-domain 1895 comedy by Wilde and licensed it for 1999 productions in San Diego, Houston and Toronto. He told Playbill On-Line Jan. 28 that he's also pitching the script to publishers.
The script was "frozen" as of the first week of January, he said, and no changes or additions are expected.
The All-Male Importance of Being Earnest opened at the Duplex Dec. 3, 1998 (after a month of previews), and was extended to Jan. 30, 1999, with some cast changes. The show was produced by Hysell's commercial Wild at Last Company (WALT Co.)
The Jan. 29-30 final weekend performances in New York will play 10 PM Friday and 8 PM Saturday. For Duplex information or reservations, call (212) 255-5438. *
Although Earnest's imperious Lady Bracknell has been played (in gimmick casting) by male actors in drag (Ellis Rabb, Larry Linville, among others), WALT Co.'s unique concept staging refigures the entire world of the play.
Hysell sets the Wilde play in New York City's gay-populated Chelsea district, and in the tony Hamptons, on Long Island. The original comedy of manners involved the efforts of a couple of London wags to woo women at a country house in the presence of prickly guardian Lady Bracknell.
Now, according to the production's description, it's about "a pack of rich, gay men who lie, cheat and assume false identities to marry the men they love."
The script is about 90 percent intact, with major changes involving settings and pronouns.
Hysell cornered Wilde's grandson, Merlin Holland, at a New York bookstore reading and asked what Oscar might say about such a staging. Holland replied, "I think Oscar would be delighted."
WALT Co.'s mission is "to nurture hysterical plays that speak truths, provide a gay-positive working environment and produce works that examine the fabulous creative spirit in us all."