In a cross talk, two writers sit down to discuss a book, movie, TV show, or piece of art they both feel strongly about. Sometimes they disagree; other times, they’re in perfect harmony. Here, News Editor Elias Mansell and Social Media Editor Lauren Cho discuss SpikeTapes recent production of “The Importance of Being Earnest,” an 1895 play by Oscar Wilde.

In “The Importance of Being Earnest,” a group of aristocrats in Victorian England fall into comic disarray as two of them are revealed to have been using the false identity of a man named “Earnest” to avoid social obligations. In this production, presented on Saturday, April 23, and Sunday, April 24, the play was immersively re-staged, with audience members following a single character throughout Russell House. 

c/o Oscar Wilde

c/o Oscar Wilde

Elias Mansell: What did you think of the play?

Lauren Cho: I honestly came in not really having any expectations, because unlike you, I haven’t read the script—I only skimmed it. But I know you really like it.

EM: Yeah. I’m obsessed with “The Importance of Being Earnest.” I’ve read it so many times and I also saw it once in high school.

LC: Do you think this is better than the version you saw in high school?

EM: Honestly, it’s kind of hard to say. The high school performance was kind of a big deal for me because I hadn’t realized how a lot of the lines could be read because I hadn’t seen it performed before. So that was a first—this wasn’t a first obviously—but I do think this version brought a lot of new stuff to it.

LC: It’s a non-traditional take and I think that speaks to the varying costume design blending all those eras together. I mean, most importantly, Algernon is now a girl, but that role is originally male. 

EM: Yeah, they made it very queer. I saw Algernon much more as Oscar Wilde himself. It was much easier to sort of distinguish the characters I think. And they did give each character a very defined personality.

LC: They did. I mean, it was very pronounced. The speech is very easy to follow considering the period that it was written, and I think that a part of that was just the fact that it was very well-acted out. I especially enjoyed the interactions between Jack and Algernon. I thought they were really funny. There were times where, because the house is the set and they were constantly shifting audiences in and out, the characters would have to pretty much improvise until everybody came into the audience.

EM: Yeah, I don’t think they were improvising. I think they made some modifications in between. So I think in a lot of ways it was—  

LC: A loose outline.

EM: Yeah.

LC: I think that what surprises me is how much of the material honestly feels like a Wesleyan student could’ve written this just because the humor feels so current. But knowing that actually, this was in the original script, it does make sense. I think it speaks to the timelessness of the play itself. 

EM: I think one of the main things that brings that sort of Wes feel is the actors and how much it feels improvised. It’s not, but there’s a spontaneity to it because the conversations feel very natural. I think a lot of people think of Victorian England as very different socially than modern day, but in a lot of ways, that felt like something you could see today.

LC: That was super refreshing, you know? And I’m glad that that is present. It really does reflect our student body as a whole and also our generation. Spike Tape’s interpretation shows how we can approach a play that’s quite past our time. 

EM: I loved Algernon in the original play on his own. I’m obsessed with that character. I never eat muffins or see muffins or hear about muffins without thinking about Algernon. Literally like one of my favorite characters period. Miranda [Simon ’24] killed it.

LC: We’re such big fans of Algernon and I think a part of it is the character, you know? And that helps—partly because it was just so well-acted and all the jokes landed so neatly. You said they did both times you went—I only went once.

EM: The only thing I think that made it difficult was that sometimes it can be hard to hear the actors.

LC: That’s also the house. All the doors are open and you’re walking around the house.

EM: Honestly, that was another great part of it too. Getting this chance to hear other rooms made it much more immersive, which I think is one of the reasons why it does feel so modern. I think it was also really interesting the second time I went. We came in early for Algernon, and we got to see Algernon just playing the piano for a bit. It was really nice to kind of just see a character almost in this moment of solitude. That’s not something you normally get to see on stage, right?

LC: I think it was a great experience. Really humorous, really, current in a way that I think is completely unexpected. Also, kudos to Spike Tape. I definitely think the setting was great. I didn’t think Russell House was gonna be as fitting as it was.

EM: The furniture was great. They did a good job with the layout. It just fits so well. I noticed that—with Algernon—that you kind of missed entirely the part with the revelation where Jack tells his origin story. I was thinking this might be confusing to someone who hasn’t read the play if they’re just following Algernon so, yeah, that was definitely one downside. Another was they were reusing lines from other characters. It doesn’t quite fit with the characterization, you know?

LC: I don’t think this was an easy play to adapt, so I will give them credit. ’Cause it isn’t easy considering its setting. And the approach was really original. But it’s like, there are just going to be bumps in the road. I still think the script was executed well as a whole. It was so funny. It made me laugh. I mean that literally every scene that Algernon was in made me laugh.

EM: I came out of this liking Algernon so much more.

LC: We’re reviewing this the day after it happened but I’m still speaking about it with as much excitement as I did the first day. I would’ve liked to see it twice. I would love to see the script, honestly. I think that would be interesting.

EM: Yeah. It would be interesting to see what actually happened with other characters.

LC: We didn’t really see the female perspective at all.

EM: And I mean, Cecily and Gwendolyn are definitely sidelined in “The Importance of Being Earnest” original script. I am kind of curious how they fleshed out those characters outside of the main scenes.

LC: I do think Jamie [Steinman ’24] did a really good job.

EM: Oh yeah. Jamie? Amazing. Outfit? Amazing. But also such a good Lady Bracknell, just very like loud, so sarcastic. That was the thing about the play as a whole. It was very sarcastic.

LC: Gen Z humor. The cast did a great job overall. I don’t think there was anybody who was lacking, but yes, I do think Miranda [Simon] stood out.

EM: Everyone was amazing.

LC: When I was describing this play to a friend, I used the word “enchanting.” But I feel like each character was flattened down to an archetype at times, which is understandable considering the challenge of adapting a play of this age.

EM: Yeah. Cecily and Gwen just kind of became these brats. They weren’t really developed in the same way.

LC: There are limitations in the original script. It’s very hard to adapt a play so that it’s relevant to our current world, and these shortcomings aren’t the script adapters’ fault. It’s not like they didn’t do a good job. It’s just that there wasn’t a lot of original material to start with. So I think overall it was very thoughtful. It was very thoughtfully adapted to fit where we are now, especially with the humor and our approach to gender and sexuality.

EM: I also wanted to talk about that other change: Making it more explicitly queer, making [Algernon] a female character, was a really interesting choice. I think it is a very queer play.

LC: How did you think it was executed?

EM: I mean, I thought it was gonna be kind of forced. I’m still kind of mixed about how I feel about it. I think it really did draw my attention to the ways in which the original script is queer. I was thinking about [Algernon] and sort of the putting on of that persona of Earnest, and that double fear of being found out. I’ve never thought of that as a thing, but I think it’s definitely there now in the original script. That sort of layering of identities, sort of being behind a mask or, in [Algernon]’s case, a mustache. I hadn’t realized how queer the original script was until I actually saw that happening on stage with an explicitly queer relationship.

LC: I think there are a lot of themes in this play that just fit so much better when they’re acted out.

EM: “The Importance of Being Earnest.” Absolutely amazing. I wanna lie all the time now. That’s what I learned from the play.


This conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

Lauren Cho can be reached at

Elias Mansell can be reached at

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