The Hat Trick Theatre troupe of Tampa continues its season of shows at the Eleanor Dempsey Performing Arts Center in Hudson with Oscar Wilde's most famous and beloved play, The Importance of Being Earnest, a Trivial Comedy for Serious People.
Written in 1895, it was at first scorned by critics (though adored by audiences) because it didn't seem to have any "social message," which was almost de rigueur at the time. Since then, it has been interpreted as a sly slap at pompous social conventions and acknowledged as Wilde's best and most clever play.
The play follows the romantic adventures of two friends, Algernon Moncrief (Steve Fisher), who lives in the city, and Ernest Worthing (Paul McColgan), a man from the country.
During one of Ernest's visits to London, Algernon spots an inscription on Ernest's cigarette case that seems suspicious. Instead of "To Ernest," it's inscribed to "Dear Uncle Jack."
Ernest finally admits that, to avoid personal complications, he leads a double life. In the country, he goes by his real name of Jack; when he comes to the city, he uses the name Ernest. To twist things further, he tells his country friends he must go to London to look out for his wastrel younger brother named Ernest.
Incredibly, Algernon does the same thing — only in reverse. In London, he is Algernon; when he wants to escape social obligations in the city, he retreats to the country and goes by the name of Ernest.
It turns out that Jack wants to marry Algernon's cousin Gwendolen, who loves him mainly for his name, "Ernest."
But then her mom, Lady Bracknell, discovers that Jack/Ernest is really a foundling without "suitable" ancestry, and she refuses to let her daughter marry him.
Meanwhile, Algernon has decided to meet Jack's young ward, Cecily, and travels to the country as "Ernest." Cecily is charmed by this "Ernest" and he by her.
All goes well until Gwendolen decides to run away from London and go to "Ernest"/Jack in the country. She meets Cecily, who claims it is she who is loved by "Ernest."
By this time, both men realize the mess their disguises have caused, and the questions become whether the women will accept them for who they really are — Jack and Algernon — and whether the snobbish Lady Bracknell can accept Jack as an appropriate suitor for her daughter.
What follows is a series of misunderstandings and coincidences, all leading to the play's big punch line.