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The Importance of Being Bunbury

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Just exactly what was Algernon, dapper hero of Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest, doing when he claimed to be off in the country "Bunburying"? According to L.A. playwright Tom Jacobson (The Orange Grove, Ouroboros), he was meeting up with his gay lover Bunbury, a character who never appears in the play. Jacobson has taken this idea and run with it to create an entire play around those less-than-famous offstage characters: Bunbury, Rosaline (Romeo's girlfriend before Juliet), George and Martha's imaginary son, and others.

This rambunctious, big-hearted play-about-plays is Bunbury, playing at the Road Theatre at the Lankershim Arts Center in North Hollywood through Dec. 4th. Jacobson takes the modern idea of characters turning on their authors and each other, and lets them try to redirect the course of literature. The writing is funny, poignant, and provocative. In rewriting Wilde, Bunbury tries to rewrite the world.

When Bunbury (an earnest Sean Wing) discovers Algernon (Zach Dulli) has betrayed him for Cecily (Stephanie Stearns), he and Rosaline (Ann Noble, very passionate) decide to stage a revolt of offstage characters. They want to get back their lovers and change the course of theatre, and Bunbury is determined to seem less than trivial. With the aid of a time-and-literature-travel magic lily, they go back to the last scene of Romeo and Juliet and prevent Romeo's suicide. But the plan backfires, hilariously, and these two star-crossed characters don't get what they want.