PORTUGUESEThe Importance of Being Earnest
by Oscar Wilde - Directed: Eduardo Tolentino

Written by the English dramaturge in 1895, with a plot that takes place in England’s Victorian Era, it might seem very distant from the Brazilian reality. And in a way, it is, but it doesn’t make it any less interesting. Specially because of a simple matter: the play is great. Filled with jokes of good taste, it has the well-known English humor, with a Brazilian touch… and also a worldly appeal, speaking of social ethics. Even better, the little importance for ethics or values in face of money makes it timeless.

“The original title, The Importance of Being Ernest, contains a play with words that is almost untranslatable to Portuguese”, says Tolentino. “’Earnest’ means something like responsible, rightful, but it’s not exactly it, because it also has a pun intended, with the word ‘honest’. And it sounds exactly like the name ‘Ernesto’. As for the translation, it’s unfortunate for the group. In the play, the ladies fall in love with the character, attracted by his name, Ernesto, that makes him seem trustworthy. ‘I wouldn’t marry a man who wasn’t Prudent’, as ‘I wouldn’t marry a man who wasn’t Faithful’ sounds better. In the French translation, the name that was chosen was ‘Constante’.”

The characters from The Importance of Being Earnest are seen as shallow members of 19th century English aristocracy, time and place where the story happens. The cast speaks Portuguese and plays with the British accent in a snobbish manner. “The characters are almost social masks. And they take their disguises to their utmost limits” explains the director. 

The story happens in two acts. Bárbara Paz is Cecília, a rich lady, romanesque and naïve, that dreams of being married to a faithful man, as well as her friend Gwendoleen (Eloísa Cichowitz). Both are enchanted by John, played by Brian Penido, that adopts the codename “Fiel” (“Faithful” in English). “It’s a game between the public and private images, because in the city he’s a rightful man, and in the country, a normal person”, Araújo explains. Gwendoleen’s mother, Lady Bracknell, played by Nathalia Timberg, stands by the moral of the dominant classes and believes that what matters isn’t to be faithful, but to come from a good family. Dalton Vigh plays Algernon, John’s friend, a former millionaire in debt. “He introduces his friend John to the aristocracy and makes him pay for the parties’ expenses”. The scenery, costumes, and the soundtrack are impeccable. There’s no doubt that Grupo Tapa’s work is wonderful, but the director, Eduardo Tolentino, could’ve shortened the play by forty minutes or so, of its two hours and ten minutes. In that way, the play would’ve had a more dynamic rhythm.