Rutgers Theater Company presents Oscar Wilde's "A Woman of No Importance" October 24–November 2

Tea and gossip in the English countryside turns into a rallying cry for female equality in Rutgers Theater Company’s A Woman of No Importance, running from Friday, October 24, through Sunday, November 2, 2014, at the Victoria J. Mastrobuono Theater.

Mrs. Rachel Arbuthnot is Oscar Wilde’s A Woman of No Importance. Mrs. Arbuthnot is a socially isolated single mother to young Gerald, wide-eyed and in love with an American heiress. Gerald is about to become an employee of Lord Illingworth, a clever and flirtatious lady’s man in a high-profile diplomatic career—but little does Gerald know that his mother and his would-be boss share a scandalous secret, that if revealed, means devastation for the lady, but not the lord.

“What begins as a light comedy takes a dark turn to the disparity between rules for men versus rules for women,” says Moritz von Stuelpnagel, who directs the play.

First performed in 1893, Wilde’s world of Victorian upper-crust privilege has been moved to the “glamorous and elegant” 1950s, where we meet a group of sophisticates “who really have no responsibility other than to socialize and make light of life,” says von Stuelpnagel.

But while the idle gossip of this well-bred bunch is witty and humorous in classic Wilde style, the play shifts into “something that feels very much more personal and heartfelt,” says von Stuelpnagel.

“Wilde is famous for his comedies, but here he’s on a mission to cry out against the injustice that he sees against half the population who have to live by different rules,” von Stuelpnagel says.

Amidst the frivolity of her carefree compatriots, Mrs. Arbuthnot rails against double standards—for example, the hypocrisy of “men who are lauded for their sexual conquests” while women are shamed, says von Stuelpnagel, who adds that the subject matter is still topical.

“This isn’t an antique idea,” von Stuelpnagel says, referring to national headlines shedding light on sexual assault on college campuses.

As Mrs. Arbuthnot tries to protect her reputation and her son against the slimy and seductive Lord Illingworth, Wilde’s work leaves audiences to ponder just how much has really changed since the 1890s, the 1950s, and now.

A Woman of No Importance runs from Friday, October 24, through Sunday, November 2, 2014*, at the Victoria J. Mastrobuono Theater. Performances are at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and at 2 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are $25 for the general public, $20 for Rutgers alumni and employees and seniors, and only $15 for students with valid ID.The Victoria J. Mastrobuono Theater is in the Mason Gross Performing Arts Center, 85 George Street (between Route 18 and Ryders Lane), on the Douglass Campus of Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, in New Brunswick. For more information about any Mason Gross event, visit www.masongross.rutgers.edu or call the Mason Gross Performing Arts Center ticket office at 848-932-7511.

*October 29 and 30 shows for Theater Appreciation students only. Tickets distributed in class.

This event is underwritten by the Leora M. Sies Theater Fund Foundation.

Posted October 2014.