America's Oldest · Founded 1808

Audiences will be "Wilde" with Laughter during Oscar Wilde's THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST! Begins Mar. 14

March 3, 2017

Philadelphia, PA: Walnut Street Theatre continues its landmark 208th season with Oscar Wilde’s classic comedy, THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST. Directed by Bob Carlton, this production begins previews on March 14th, opens on March 22nd and runs through April 30th on the Walnut’s Mainstage.

One can never be too (two) Earnest. The results would be a world filled with chaos, mistaken identity and uncontrollable laughter! THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST tells the story of two bachelor friends, dandy Algernon Moncrieff and reliable John (Jack) Worthington, as they take on double lives to court the attentions of the desirable Gwendolen Fairfax and Cecily Cardew. But the gallants must then grapple with the uproarious consequences of their ruse… and with the formidable Lady Bracknell. Oscar Wilde's much loved and exhilarating masterpiece, with its high comedy and witty dialogue, have helped make THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST Wilde's most enduringly popular play.

Oscar Wilde wrote THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST during the height of his fame in 1894. This was the last play he penned, and became his most popular. The show had its world premiere at the St. James Theatre in London in February 1895 and its Broadway premiere in April of the same year. THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST has been produced world-wide and has had adaptations for television, opera and radio. It’s been adapted for film three times, most recently in 2002 starring Dame Judi Dench, Rupert Everett, Colin Firth and Reese Witherspoon.

Bob Carlton returns to the Walnut to direct, after his work on last season’s production, Harvey. His prior work on the Walnut’s Mainstage includes Private Lives by Noël Coward (2016), Lust (1995), She Stoops to Conquer (1996) and Blood Brothers (1998). Carlton is the former Artistic Director of The Queen’s Theatre, Hornchurch, a position he held for 17 years. He is also a playwright with works including You'll Never Walk Alone (Liverpool Everyman), Keep on Running (Queen’s Theatre, Hornchurch and Birmingham Rep) and From a Jack to a King, which transferred to the West End’s Ambassadors Theatre. His musical Return to the Forbidden Planet won an Olivier Award for Best Musical and was nominated for two Outer Critics’ Circle Awards.

Philadelphia’s leading lady Mary Martello will play the formidable Lady Bracknell. In her almost 20 years on local stages, Martello has been awarded five Barrymore Awards, received a Lunt/Fontanne Fellowship and has performed in over 20 shows at the Walnut. Most recently, she has been seen as Mother Superior in Sister Act, Veta Louise Simmons in Harvey and Mama in Memphis. Jake Blouch makes his Walnut debut as John Worthington. In Philadelphia, Blouch has performed with companies including Arden Theatre, Wilma Theater, Lantern Theatre and 11th Hour Theatre Company. The charming bachelor Algernon Moncrieff will be played by Daniel Fredrick. Walnut audiences will remember Fredrick from his performances in the Independence Studio on 3. In the world premiere production of Mickle Street, he played a young Oscar Wilde.

Lauren Sowa returns to the Walnut as the sophisticated, intelligent Gwendolen Fairfax after performing in Harvey and Private Lives. Alanna J. Smith joins the cast as the young, beautiful Cecily Cardew. At the Walnut, Smith was most recently seen in The Wizard of Oz and A Christmas Story. Cecily’s governess, Miss Prism, will be played by Walnut veteran Ellie Mooney, whose credits include Laughter on the 23rd Floor, The Wizard of Oz, Sister Act, Harvey and Amadeus. Peter Schmitz (And Then There Were None, Arsenic and Old Lace) returns to the Walnut as Reverend Canon Chasuble and Kevin Bergen (An Ideal Husband) as the manservant Lane.

A lush Victorian background is the perfect setting for an evening of “Wilde” mistaken identities, quick proposals and hilarious misunderstandings. Leading the creative team, set designer Robert Koharchik (Harvey, Private Lives) will be joined by costume designer Mark Mariani (Laughter on the 23rd Floor), sound designer Elizabeth Atkinson (Harvey), and lighting designer Stuart Duke (Private Lives).

THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST runs at the Walnut March 14 through April 30. Open captioning will be available for the 7pm performance on Sunday, April 9. Media Partners are NBC 10 and Metro. For tickets and information, call 215-574-3550 or 800-982-2787. Tickets are also available online 24/7 by visiting or Ticketmaster.