"A Woman of No Importance" is another of Oscar Wilde's "Society Plays," and it certainly carries on his portrayal of English capital-s "Society" as being vapid, shallow, and cruel.
In this case, the title is ironic, since Mrs. Arbuthnot is one of the only decent characters in the play.
The play starts at a country estate, where Sir John Pontefract and his wife are entertaining guests. Among them is Hester Worsley, a young woman visiting from America. She and Gerald Arbuthnot--son of Mrs Arbuthnot--have been dating. Gerald has just accepted a job as Secretary to Lord Illingworth, an oily and venomously charming bachelor. Gerald is excited by the new position, as it will provide him the means with which to marry Hester. Also, Lord Illingworth serves as a type of ideal for Gerald, who grew up fatherless.
The clashes between Lord Illingworth, Hester, Gerald, and his mother shine against the dull emptiness of the various Lords and Ladies also in attendance.
I grew weary of this play by halfway through the second act. Wilde writes splendid epigrams, but sometimes all the other characters exist to feed Lord Illingworth set-up lines. It's like comedy skeet.
In the third and fourth acts, though, Wilde really develops his story. The play reveals a secret or two, and it works toward a surprisingly satisfying conclusion.
If you get bogged down early on, as I did, stick it out. Oscar knew what he was doing after all.