4 Corners - Himanshu Sitlani recounds watching at Broadway - 'The Importance of being Earnest'


When I decided to pursue theatre as an obsession many years ago, one of my aims in life was to watch a play at Broadway. So when the likes of Sid Kumar told me he was coming to New York for a week and that he too intends to catch a Broadway show, I jumped at the chance.

On the day of arrival, I got off the bus at 8:30am, and by 11am we were at Broadway. Our first plan of action was to watch a play. While I was looking at options including Avenue Q, Fuerza Bruta, Sid suggested ‘The Importance of being Earnest'. Considering I had never seen a version of it and the impressive poster, we decided to watch it. Agreed it wasn’t a Broadway spectacle show we chose but we figured we’d do that a little later during the week (more on that in another issue of ‘The Script’…muuhhhaaaaa!!)

Written in 1895 by Oscar Wilde and also known as ‘a trivial comedy for serious people’, the play is about two English gentlemen who secretly use the name 'Ernest' as their double life; until they fall for women who cherish honesty and a passion for the divine name ‘Earnest’. Of course there’s a lot more that happens in the play. If you haven’t read it yet, I’d suggest you pick up a copy.

The show presented by The Roundabout Theatre Company, lived up if not exceeded all our expectations. The cast was spectacular. David Furr as John Worthing and Santino Fontana as Algernon Moncrieff play the 2 English gentlemen with great ease and their chemistry together was a treat. Charlotte Parry as Cecily Cardew, played the character with the simplicity required for the part (even though many comments were made on her long nose by the audience) and Jessie Austrian as Gwendolen Fairfax was just gorgeous (yes I developed a crush, sue me!). The scene in Act 2 in which these two proper Englishwomen sharpen their claws on each other through simpering was just too funny. But without doubt the scene stealer was the director Mr Brian Beckford who played Lady Bracknell. His(or her…dang this could get confusing) expression when John Worthing says he was found by his adoptive parents in a handbag and Mr Beckford gives a look and says “Handbag?” will be forever etched in my memory. It was truly a performance to savour.

The other thing we were blown away by was the set. The moment the curtain went up and we saw the set, Sid and I exchanged many profanities and remembered the lord in various ways. It took us a couple of minutes to take our minds off the set and onto the show. Everything from the fireplace in Act 1, to the visual of sitting in the garden with the backdrop of the house in the distance, to the garden vines in Act 2, to the bookshelf and artifacts inside the house in Act 3 were just breath-taking. On reading the brochure, I found out that Desmond Heeley the man behind the set as well as the costumes (which too were simply gorgeous), has designed sets for Laurence Olivier, Tom Stoppard and Vivian Leigh. Take a bow sir!

As was expected the audience lapped up every bit of the play and a truly heartwarming applause was given. However what striked me the most was the fact that on a Wednesday and a matinee show in a theatre that seats 740 people, the show was nearly full. And this theatre is one of 42 theatres that make up the Broadway theatre scene. While I was in awe of the sheer numbers of theatergoers, felt sad for a fact that India doesn’t have the same enthusiasm. Hopefully and fingers crossed the change will be around the corner.

Anyways, so at the end of the show, Sid and me were just so happy that we made out first day in New York so memorable by watching a great play. I suggest that wherever in the world you are reading this, if you ever get a chance to watch this production either in your city or happen to be in a city where the next set of shows will happen, PLEASE do catch it!!

Have also found out that the production was filmed live in March (could it be the same show we were in...hmmmm!!!!) and will be shown in cinemas in June 2011. So do wait and grab your hands on the film version if you cannot reach the live performance.