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Theater: It’s Still Important to Be Earnest

Northeast Stage nails a modernized Oscar Wilde play.

a late 19th century play about the importance of maintaining fictitious personalities in order to escape social obligations, is having its last two performances Saturday and Sunday nights at the Holy Trinity Church Hall in Greenport this weekend.

The modern take is set first in New York City instead of London, then at a country estate in East Hampton. The play opens with Lane, the depressed housekeeper of Algernon Moncrieff — an idle socialite who is obsessed with cucumber sandwiches — drinking a lot and not caring about her boss. Jack “Ernest” Worthing shows up from the country to propose to Algernon’s cousin, Gwendolen Fairfax.

There is a whole to-do about a mysterious cigarette case with John-Jack-Ernest ending up having to explain to all to Algernon about an aunt or a cousin named Cecily Cardew, at which point Algernon confesses that he has a similar deceit revolving around an invalid friend named Bunbury in the country, whom he can refer to whenever he wishes to avoid an unwelcome social obligation.

Kim Dermody is hilarious as the drunk-all-the-time Lane. Colin Palmer is effectively annoying as Algernon, A.D. Newcomer delivers the subtle lines as the naïve Gwendolen, Amie Sponza pours it on as uppity Upper East Side mother Bunny Bracknell, and John Tramontana truly takes the stage as the confused yet confident star of the show who is not sure of his name in this charming adaption of the last script written by one of the most brilliant of modern playwrights.

“The Importance of Being Earnest” is directed by James Pritchard and runs through Sunday. Catch it for $15 at the Holy Trinity Church Hall in Greenport Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 5 p.m.

Visit northeaststage.org.

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