Most days I wish that I could create my own hybrid Algonquin Round Table and use my razor sharp wit to amuse my (fake/dead writer) friends. While I wish I was a good person all the time, I’m actually “best” when scathing…it’s a blessing and a curse. As I’ve grown up, I think I’ve tucked away most of these tendencies but I still think about my perfect round table. My line up shifts here and there over the years but always at the table are Dorothy Parker and Oscar Wilde.
Every year when my classes read The Importance of Being Earnest my heart soars…not because we’re going to be reading it but because I’m really, really burned out and this means that I only have two more pieces of lit to get through until the year is over. This is not to say that I’m not immensely happy to be teaching (I am), or that I shirk my duties (I don’t) but teaching seniors is hard stuff. Their cynicism is infectious, their whines contagious and I too, look at the window longingly a few seconds too long when no one will answer my questions, muttering, “serenity now! I am a hollow reed” in my head. The Importance of Being Earnest has a special place in my heart because while the kids moan and groan that they have to READ ANOTHER PIECE OF LITERATURE IN LIT CLASS (the HORROR! the HORROR!) within a few minutes they get into the flow of the play and then smiles start to cross their faces and maybe even a little chuckle echos off the walls…and then I smile! I stop feeling burned out and pick up my internal pace and get re-centered.
The Importance of Being Earnest is a tiny little fluff ball of a play. Clocking in around 82 pages more happens on stage than what’s being said, there is a lot of physical comedy, tone and inflection play a huge role in how people respond to one another and it’s kind of a laugh just how shallow the lives of the idle rich must have been (honestly?I can handle the life of an idle rich person, feel free to gift me with tons of money). Wilde’s wit and humor at times is a little bitchy (in a fun way) but for the most part it’s just light, flirtatious banter. The plot is actually eyeball roll worthy but after a year of reading mostly heavy tragic tomes, it’s nice to have a little dessert–a touch of spring to ease us into summer.
The story revolves around a guy named Jack Worthing who goes by Ernest Worthing when in the city. This affords him the ability to do all the fancy “rich guy playboy things” that they did back then without having his reputation tarnished. He probably wouldn’t worry about his reputation so much if it wasn’t for his ward, Cecily. As her guardian, he feels that he owes it to her to raise her with “high moral standards” even though high moral standards are incredibly boring according to him. His ward and his ward’s governess believe that Ernest Worthing is Jack’s younger ne’er do well brother that Jack always needs to help out of scrapes (in reality, Jack’s just ditching the boring country life and running for his life to the city to PARTY IT UP! WOOOT! Sorry, I don’t know what got into me). When his identities are threatened by his best friend Algernon (yeah, I know…you just said Flowers For Algernon, good for you! Do you KNOW how many times I’ve heard that these past two weeks?!?! arrggh) and he falls in love, Jack has to decide what to do with his dear (yet fake persona/brother) Ernest. Hilarity ensues. It’s like a classy Benny Hill show. Oh and the movie has Rupert Everett (remember he existed once?) , Colin Firth (swoon a little), Reese Witherspoon (ehh) and Dame Judi Dench (killing it in this movie!).