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The play 'The Importance of Being Earnest' by Pittsburgh Public Theater is a classic comedy that has been updated for a modern audience

As spring arrives in Pittsburgh, love — and laughter — fills the air with Pittsburgh Public Theater’s rendition of Oscar Wilde’s timeless play, “The Importance of Being Earnest.” The play, recently modified and overseen by Jenny Koons, and in partnership

Pittsburgh Public Theater’s production of Oscar Wilde’s well-known play, “The Importance of Being Earnest,” has premiered in downtown Pittsburgh and will continue until April 14. The play has been adapted and directed by Jenny Koons, in collaboration with Baltimore Center Stage, and brings love and laughter to the city as spring arrives.

First performed in 1895 at St. James’s Theatre in London, England, “The Importance of Being Earnest” is one of Oscar Wilde’s most beloved plays. It has been revived on stage and adapted for the screen many times. The enduring humor and heart of the play keep audiences coming back for more, despite being set in Victorian times.

The story revolves around two secretive aristocratic young men, Jack (Paul Deo Jr.) and Algernon (Dylan Marquis Meyers), who face complications when they both fall in love with a pair of ladies. This leads to a series of events that wouldn’t feel out of place in a modern sitcom, but with a high society twist.

“Earnest” was written to mock the hypocrisy of the Victorian era. As a product of its time, it is enjoyed by fans of period pieces and comedy.

The language may sound pretentious, but the humor comes quickly and easily thanks to the cast’s swift delivery. Watching two men argue about muffins in the garden of an English country house at tea time always gets the audience laughing. Deo Jr. and Meyers displayed a sparkling comedic chemistry that added something extra.

Even in scenes with their respective love interests, Gwendolyn (Veronica del Cerro) and Cecily (Alex Manalo), the male leads charmed while struggling with their secrets. The sophisticated Gwendolyn, played by del Cerro, confidently emphasized her character’s often-absurd assertions. Manalo’s Cecily was fanciful and determined. The scenes they shared were some of the funniest in the show.

The standout of the cast was David Ryan Smith as Lady Bracknell, Gwendolyn’s mother and Algernon’s aunt. Smith played her perfectly, earning applause from the audience upon exiting his first scene.

The cast also included Susan M. Lynskey as Miss Prism, Cecily’s governess, and Joseph McGranaghan, who portrayed Lane, Merriman, and the Rev. Chasuble. Both delivered excellent performances, with Lynskey particularly enhancing a significant moment. McGranaghan’s quick and dry wit added extra spice to his scenes.

This version of “Earnest” was changed and overseen by Jenny Koons, and the 130-year-old words come to life on stage with a new energy thanks to her innovative approach to the classic. The rest of the skilled creative team prepares the setting for the relaxed elegance of Victorian teas, with the help of set designer Jason Ardizzone-West and lighting designer Annmarie Duggan. Costume designer Hugh Hanson worked wonders with stylish suits and fitted dresses that suit the time period perfectly.

Don’t be put off by the seemingly formal exterior of “The Importance of Being Earnest.” Even after more than a century, and with a new version, it remains hilariously funny — and even, ultimately, a little bit sincere.

Pittsburgh Public Theater’s “The Importance of Being Earnest” will be performed until April 14 at the O’Reilly Theater in downtown Pittsburgh. For more details, and to buy tickets, go to ppt.org/Earnest.

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