I love period plays, especially those in which the characters offer up one bon mot after another, all with perfect manners. No one writes better ‘manners’ plays than Oscar Wilde. His Victorian masterpiece, “Lady Windermere’s Fan”, has a cornucopia of memorable bon mots. “Lady Windermere’s Fan” as produced by the Dead Writers Theater Collective was a delightful experience and I give it 4 Spotlights.
Lady Windermere is a fashionable society matron who is celebrating her 21st birthday. She’s delighted with the gorgeous, feathered fan her husband (who she loves) gave her as a gift for her birthday. She has an admirer, Lord Darlington (Doug Reed), who pays her extravagant compliments to which she replies, “I don’t like compliments, and I don’t see why a man should think he is pleasing a woman enormously when he says to her a whole heap of things that he doesn’t mean.” By the way, I was so fascinated by what she said that I looked up that quotation!
Lord Darlington hints that someone close to Lady Windermere is doing something he shouldn’t, but the truly malicious gossip comes from the Duchess of Berwick (Linda Roberts) and her debutante daughter, Lady Agatha Carlisle (Christina Renee Jones). The Duchess commiserates with Lady Windermere about the gossip circulating about her husband’s frequent visits to the home of a certain woman with a wicked reputation.
Lady Windermere doesn’t want to believe the stories, but when she searches his bank records, she finds that he’s been giving money to Mrs. Erlynne. Then Lord Windermere (Edward Fraim) insists on inviting Mrs. Erlynne (Joanna Riopelle) to her birthday ball.
At the ball, Lord Darlington announces his love to Lady W. When that woman is announced, Lady W. tries to cut her, but just can’t bring herself to be that rude. Upset over Lord W’s attentions to that woman, she decides to leave him and go to Lord Darlington.
Mrs. Erlynne is actually at the ball to blackmail Lord W. In conversation, it comes out that Mrs. Erlynne is actually Lady Windermere’s disgraced mother. Mrs. Erlynne finds and reads the note Lady W. left for her husband, noting that the words are exactly the same as she’d once left for her husband.
I can resist anything except temptation.”
Life is far too important a thing ever to talk seriously about
I like talking to a brick wall- it’s the only thing in the world that never contradicts me!
It is always a silly thing to give advice, but to give good advice is absolutely fatal.
It is absurd to divide people into good and bad. People are either charming or tedious. We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.
Windermere’s mother, who abandoned her family twenty years before the time the play is set. Mrs Erlynne sacrifices herself and her reputation to save her daughter’s marriage. The best known line of the play sums up the central theme:
We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.
Dead Writers Theatre Collective has a very specific mission – to produce works either by or about dead writers. Their careful research results in period appropriate settings, props and costumes. Instead of the Empire-waisted Regency costumes seen in last year’s production of “Emma”, “Lady Windermere’s Fan” features elaborate beaded and bustled Victorian gowns.
For their homes, the Victorians favored fussy, ornate furniture and hangings with lots of fussy knickknacks sitting around. It was rather fascinating to watch the stage crew transform the set from Lady Windermere’s tastefully feminine drawing room into Lord Darlington’s masculine card room.
“Lady Windemere’s Fan” runs through June 7th at Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont, Chicago. Performances are Thursday through Saturday at 7:30 pm; Sunday at 2:30. Running time is just under two hours with an intermission. Tickets are $40. Valet parking is available. FYI (773) 327-5252 or www.deadwriters.net.
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