Theater archives

Wilde, Wilde East


After Algernon finishes massacring a minuet on his pianoforte, he turns to his butler, Lane, and remarks, “I don’t play accurately—anyone can play accurately—but I play with wonderful expression.” Similarly, The Kung Fu Importance of Being Earnest, adapted by director Michael Gardner, cannot be termed an accurate rendition of Wilde’s comedy, but it is wonderfully expressive. Gardner has trimmed the prolix four-act play to just over an hour and has interpolated numerous scenes in which lights shift, drumbeats emerge, and characters belay each other with hands, feet, and parasols.

Gardner has done an admirable job of hacking away at the script but still rendering it sensible, and the cast members are more or less able in their roles, though Cole Kazdin is several decades too young and much too pretty to properly terrify as Lady Bracknell, and the choice of a Darth Vader punching doll to play the Reverend Canon Chasuble is a choice whose implications we’re not altogether comfortable with. (Is Anglicanism so evil?) And while the fight scenes, energetically choreographed by Qui Nguyen, do become increasingly unmotivated, it is quite agreeable to watch men and women in Edwardian dress offer deadly violence when informed that there are no more cucumber sandwiches. A most appropriate reaction.