I want to talk about “Lady Windermere’s Fan” — the Irish Classical Theatre’s company’s last show show of their 2017-18 season.
Written in 1892 by Oscar Wilde and directed by Josephine Hogan, “Lady Windermere’s Fan” centers upon a prop piece, a beautiful and ornate white feathered fan adorned with bits of silver and engraved with the name “Margaret.”
The fan was a recent birthday present from Lord Windermere (Matt Witten) to his wife Lady Margaret Windermere (Arianne Davidow) and serves much of the narrative drive of Wilde’s two-hour and four act play. At one point, it’ll become a ticking bomb, which will cause social ruin upon its discovery — the wand which will turn gossip until scandal. But for the most part, the wand — I mean fan — is a symbol of goodness and love and favor and sacrifice, much like the reputation of the good Puritan woman who owns the accessory.
Lady Windermere has many fans. She’s a good woman of London’s high society and her admirers include the bachelor Lord Darlington (Ben Michael Moran), divorcee Mrs. Erlynne (Kate LoConti), the Duchess of Berwick (Colleen Gaughan), and her husband, Lord Windermere. But her and her biggest fans are dipped in scandal when Lord Windermere pays installments to social newcomer Mrs. Erlynne, whose quick social rise and number of male suitors, including Lord Augustus Lorton (Christian Brandjes), becomes a favorite topic of conversation. The gossip rises several octaves when Lord Windermere invites Mrs. Erlynne to his wife’s birthday ball as the play begins.
There’s much to love about “Lady Windermere’s Fan.” Lise Harty’s costumes are beautiful, especially the shimmery off-the-shoulder gowns.
Wilde’s writing is witty and wonderful, drawing you in with gossip and humor, balanced with Puritan sensibilities and aphorisms like, “The difference between gossip and scandal is scandal is gossip with morality.”
But even though “Lady Windermere’s Fan” is tipped toward scandal, it isn’t a dull or fussy play. No, the actors remind you it’s a comedy. There’s the Windermeres’ butler (David Lundy), who’s wears such plain disdain on his face that you have to laugh as his expressions; and Lady Agatha Carlisle (Emily Collins), who parrots high and chirpy “Yes, ma’ms” until the words become meaningless and you have to laugh at the absurdity. Then there’s Brandjes, who resembles a human puppy that you can almost see his tail wagging as he reaches for a treat just out of reach.
The whole ensemble cast is excellent, but there’s no question what or who “Lady Windermere’s Fan” is really about. LoConti steals the show as the wickedly charming Mrs. Erlynne, whose wit and cleverness allow her to untangle herself from the knots of high British society. Like a magician, she escapes through a series of secret trapped doors while you watch, as transfixed as her male suitors who follow her around like puppies. By the end of the play, you know this: you are Lady Windermere’s fan, as well as Lady Erlynne’s.