21Anyone who has ever seen a play written by Telluride Theatre‘s artistic director Sasha Sullivan knows her timing is perfect. The company’s upcoming production is no exception: it illustrates the arc of the gay movement from closet to the soapbox where a newly inaugurated president wiped out years of marginalization and worse.

Telluride Theatre presents “The Importance of Being Earnest.” Its wildly successful opening in London (ironically) on St.Valentine’s Day in 1895  marked the climax of  Oscar Wilde’s career. The play also brought about the playwright’s downfall.

The Marquess of Queensberry,  father of Wilde’s lover, Lord Alfred Douglas, purportedly planned to present Wilde a bouquet of rotten vegetables and disrupt the show. Wilde and Douglas were tipped off and Queensberry was refused admission. Soon afterwards, however, their feud came to a head in court, where Wilde’s homosexual double life was revealed to the Victorian public and he was  sentenced to imprisonment. Despite its huge success, Wilde’s unwelcome outing and subsequent notoriety caused such a flap, “Earnest” closed after just 86 performances.

Telluride Theatre’s production opens at the historic Sheridan Opera House Thursday, February 7 and runs through Sunday, February 10. Showtime is 7 p.m.

Widely regarded as Wilde’s best loved work, “The Importance of Being Earnest” appears to be an oh so frivolous comedy. But the play has a dark underbelly. Scratch the surface and what you get is a no-holds-barred critique of Victorian society, a hypocritical world in which Wilde was forced to hide in plain sight.

“The Importance of Being Earnest” turns on mistaken identities as it ridicules codes of propriety and etiquette. Dashing men-about-town John Worthing and Algernon Moncrieff pursue fair ladies Gwendolen Fairfax and Cecily Cardew. Matters are complicated by the imaginary characters invented by both men to cover their on-the-sly activities – not to mention the disapproval of Gwendolen’s mother, the formidable Lady Bracknell.

The play is a departure for Sasha, who historically has mounted original works (usually plays she wrote):

 “I wanted to choose something that was really fun for the audience, but also challenging for our actors.  ‘Earnest’ has always been one of my favorite plays. I have seen productions, movies, scene work, some good, some bad, and some bloody awful. I’ve always wanted to produce the play to challenge myself as a director and to explore Wilde’s unique sense of dry witty comedy,” explained Sasha, who directs the production.

“Earnest” is filled with some of literature’s most famous quips. and is widely considered Wilde’s most perfect work.

Love Downton Abbey? You will LOVE Earnest!

Telluride Theatre’s production stars  Sam Burgess, Taylor Clay, Linda Levin, Peter Lundeen, Dahlia Mertens, Sharon Sharp, Colin Sullivan, and Kate Wadley.

The costume designer is the talented Melissa Sumpter.

Tickets $15 for adult; $12 for students, available at or by calling 970.708.3934

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