"The Importance of Being Earnest," as performed by the Pearl Theater Company last night, was hugely entertaining. One reason for its success was that the production did not try to update Wilde (he was, I was convinced last night, of his time, and so offered a period, and a period of, satisfaction), or radicalize him, or analyze him, and so the play remained funny throughout its three acts.
The other reason was the strong ensemble acting, with the exception of Lady Bracknell played by Carol Schultz. Ali Ahn, as Cecily, delivered many of her lines with delicious timing, but also mashed many of her words in her rush to get them out. Rachel Botchan was Gwendolen with a spine, both in her character, and in her well trained, upper class carriage. Bradford Cover was convincing as the straight man, Jack. But the evening belonged to Sean McNall who played Algernon. As the Times review noted, he made the famous epigrams fresh, spoke them as if they were minted for the first time, in the spontaneity of situation. The theater website congratulated this resident actor for winning a 2008 Obie for Sustained Excellence in Performance. I would love to see him again, in a different role.