Through June 25|
LADY WINDERMERE’S FAN Andrews Theatre/Irish Classical Theatre Company
The test of a play versus a great play is how well it stands up over time.
Think about it: Aeschylus and Aristophanes have been dead for so long they are names in shadowy links with the past and some surviving words but they were great names in classical Greece, for a reason.
Oscar Wilde has been dead for little more than a century but his words also remain, perhaps more than his four great plays and one fascinating novel.
Times have changed so much, these plays are thought of for the epigrams which litter the stage and, too often, not for the bitter social criticism which often underlies the script.
Lady Winderemere's Fan is a comedy about the bozos and the bimbos who controlled upper-crust life during the London Season, the mating time for the nobility and the aristocracy.
It’s before social media, cell phones and the endless gossip columns of the London newspapers, especially the tabloid “red tops.”
Instead it’s whispering gossip time, here one of the gossip items among the rich is Mrs. Erlynne (Kate LoConti), who has mysteriously become a social figure, bitterly argued about.
Lady Windermere (Arianne Davidow) has been convinced by her circle that the woman is some evil gangrene in society and shouldn’t be invited to the lady’s 21st birthday party in the palatial mansion of her rich husband.
That’s why she can’t imagine why Lord Windermere (Matt Witten) is ordering her presence, along with the great noble, Lord Augustus Lorton (Christian Brandjes, who is trailing along behind her with dreams of husband status.
Lady Windermere and her posse are convinced her husband and the mysterious Mrs. Erlynne are having an affair, especially when she looks into his checkbook and sees how much money is flowing to the mysterious woman
Lady Windermere never learns what’s going on, something her husband can never admit.
She’s not dumb, although she is stupid and just assumes her husband has joined the long ranks of husbands cheating.
Indeed, she decides if her husband can cheat, she can take off with Lord Darlington (Ben Michael Moran), who is deeply in love with her and is planning on leaving England forever.
She puts on her shawl over another of her gorgeous gowns, packs up her husband’s gift fan and takes off for Darlington’s flat.
That’s where it all winds up well, almost.
This gives rise to the single funniest scene in the show, the barrage of epigrams thrown about by the assembled and formally dressed crew of reprobates and dissemblers carousing in Lord Darlington’s rooms, including one of Wilde’s best, that definition of a cynic as “A man who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.”
These men were that way, rich men in a society in which wealth was the measure of the man and being poor was a moral failure.
Even worse, if it’s a woman on the wrong side of the financial ledger in this time of the queen-empress Victoria.
Even some cast problems can’t really dent this production.
Witten, Moran, Brandjes, LoConti, Colleen Gaughan’s duchess of Berwick are very strong.
Where there are problems, they involve performers who can’t quite master the mix of their lines and the accents they use in the roles, particularly Davidow and Emily Collins’ Lady Agatha Carlisle.
Director Josephine Hogan is a great fan of the Irish writer and well understands the complicated staging of the Andrews Theatre.
She’s working with some wonderful costumes from Lise Harty, especially the stunning red dress worn by Mrs. Erlynne for the great party.
Paul Bostaph’s set works with the complicated staging of the Andrews and some entertaining set changing.
“Lady Windermere’s Fan” is a look at the way life used to be and in the age of #MeToo can still be.
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