15. A play: The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde
List Progress: 26/30
I was a theater major in college, so even I don’t understand how I haven’t read The Importance of Being Earnest until now. This is one of the comedy staples of the Western canon, and for good reason. Oscar Wilde had an incredible gift for wordplay and bon mots, and this high society farce skewers the upper strata of Victorian culture beautifully. I can tell that this is probably a great play to see on its feet, and if it didn’t feel as sparky to me as it could, I know that’s because I’m not consuming it in its intended medium.
Jack Worthing and Algernon Moncrieff want to have their cake and eat it too. They both make up fake relatives to give respectable excuses for their libertine dalliances in the city and the country, respectively. But when they are trying to nail down the longer cons of courting respectable young ladies, both end up inventing alter egos named Ernest, which leads to all manner of confusion and chaos. Heiresses, orphans, overbearing aunts, all of the Victorian tropes are there in top form. It is easy to see why this play has stood the test of time so much, even while it is firmly of its era. Comedy is subjective, but sometimes funny is just funny.
Anytime you read a script, you miss a bit of the potential, so I would recommend seeing a production of Earnest if it is at all possible. But even in written form, Wilde’s wit shines through and makes it more than worthwhile.
Would I Recommend It: Yes.