Theatre Review: ‘Lady Windermere’s Fan’ at Irish Classical Theatre

The cast of “Lady Windermere’s Fan” at Irish Classical Theatre.

Ah, the things we do for love. We keep secrets. Maybe tell a fib or two. And perhaps we try to protect the object of our affection from hurting over something that can’t be undone.

Love, honor, and the subtleties of deception combine to form the delectable story of Oscar Wilde’s “Lady Windermere’s Fan,” sumptuously staged by the Irish Classical Theatre Company.

Director Josephine Hogan had the dream team cast for this one.

The story begins as we meet Lady Windermere, elegantly played by Arianne Davidow. . She has two visitors in the afternoon of her “coming of age” birthday. First is Lord Darlington who Lady Windermere playfully chides for lavishing too much attention on her. “Compliments,” sighs Lord Darlington, “is the only thing we can pay,” he laments.  Still he admires so much about her, she is a good woman, in a world where there are so many bad ones. Lady Windermere, true to her Puritan values, wants nothing to do with such talk, or his veiled attempts at seduction. “I will have no one in my house about whom there is any scandal,” she declares. So when her next guest arrives – The Duchess of Berwick with her daughter Lady Agatha – Lady W can barely tolerate the thought that her dear husband is involved with a woman with a questionable past. And he’s giving her money! Whatever for?

She confronts her husband, who implores her to invite the mysterious Mrs. Erlynne to the evening’s birthday party. Lady W. will have none of it, so Lord W. invites this wayward guest himself. There’s a gasp when Mrs. Erlynne sweeps into the room, all clad in the brightest of red gowns, with the tallest hair ornament of them all, against a sea of more modestly-hued frocks.  She beguiles the men. And shocks the women.

What unfolds is the classic parlor comedy with a morality theme, sparked by plenty of discussion about right and wrong, marriage and human nature, good and bad. If you’re not charming, you’re tedious, and if you’re too good, you’re taken too seriously. The witty banter, the raised eyebrows, the shocking revelations are Wilde at his finest. So is the fluttering of Lady Windermere’s fan, with its pure white feathers, sparkling jewels, inscription just for the Lady. The fan – a gift, a metaphor, a symbol – has the most provocative silent role of all.

Director Josephine Hogan had the dream team cast for this one. Davidow, in demure pink and white with flowers in her hair, is the perfect young bride to Matt Witten’s stalwart but loving Lord Windermere. Ben Michael Moran is a charmer as the smitten Lord Darlington, and delivers the classic line – “We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars” with a sweet longing for the love he can’t share with Lady W. Kate LoConti is outstanding as the mysterious Mrs. Erlynne. She’s brazen, confident, and determined…and sentimental, caring, and devoted to what’s acceptable to the high-brow British uppercrust. LoConti’s expressions, her gestures, are slight, and convey every emotion and meaning. David Lundy is a trip as Parker the butler.  His entr’acte stage-lights-at-half ballet sequence is Artie-worthy. Christian Brandjes as the bumbling Lord Augustus Lorton and Chris Kelly as the sardonic Cecil Graham are great foils. Jon May’s Mr. Dumby delivers the prophetic punch at the party with “In this world there are only two tragedies. One is not getting what one wants, and the other is getting it.” Wilde’s wisest words.

Running Time: 2 Hours, with a 10-minute intermission.

“Lady Windermere’s Fan” is onstage until June 24, 2018 and is presented at Irish Classical Theatre. For more information, click here.