June 15, 2008
Town and Country Players Presents Lady Windermere's Fan
Theater: Town and Country Players
Show Title: Lady Windermere’s Fan by Oscar Wilde
Opened: June 13, 2008
Seen: June 14, 2008
Reviewer: Patrick Albanesius
Submitted: June 15, 2008
Lady Windermere’s Fan was Oscar Wilde’s first play and the Town and Country Players open his work with lovely costumes and some very fine acting. Leading the cast is Jen Newby playing the titular part of Lady Windermere. Newby, a graduate of Kutztown University’s theatre program, created some softness for Lady Windermere in the first scene with her admirer Mr. Darlington (played charmingly by John Helmke). This is a nice feat considering Wilde doesn’t provide much “softness” with his cynical dialogue. It’s while bringing out the anger and sense of betrayal her character endures throughout the rest of the play when Newby truly shines. In fact her scenes with the antagonist, Mrs. Erlynne are the highlights of the show.
Erlynne (played by Susan Fowler) is introduced as a scandal-chased woman whom Mr. Windermere (played by Hans Specht) is secretly giving money to. Are they having an affair? Is she a down-on-her-luck widow? Fowler hides the true meaning cleverly, allowing the audience the pleasure of choosing whether to hate Mrs. Erlynne or pity her. Fowler is charming and confident and gives the production its sound depth of purpose while the surrounding caricatures (such as Lord Augustus, Parker the butler, and the Duchess of Berwick) support the scenes with some delightful dry English humor, which unfortunately the somewhat aged audience didn’t get much of.
The play itself largely comments on high-society, like much of Wilde’s work and other works of the time period. The dialogue is typical Wilde-like proper humor about self-revelation and the hard and fast rules of life versus the matters of personal wants. There are constant statements about what men and women are and what can be done about them. The snobbishness of high culture is the order of the day. This all gets somewhat redundant when everything of subject is “tedious” or “dreadful” or “monstrous.” I was numbed by the dialogue when the time came for a character to proclaim “There are two great tragedies in life. One is not getting what one wants, and the other is getting it.” Please understand, this is a comment on Wilde’s first work, not the actors.
The dialogue aside, the actors moved the play along at a good, quick pace but didn’t move much themselves. The party scene was full of crosses, entrances and exits, but there was some station-to-station blocking that took away from other scenes. This might not be something a non-performer will notice, but I was distracted by Newby being stuck behind a couch during a scene where she should have owned the stage. All-in-all this was not a huge detriment to the production itself, but it was bothersome to me personally. Also, while there was some tension between Mr. Windermere and his wife’s admirer Mr. Darlington, I would’ve liked to see a little more. Darlington seems to wilt a little when a real confrontation ensued. Again, this might be nitpicking, but it took away from the production for me.
Overall this was a fine production but with some tweaking, could have been more dynamic. I’d recommend the show for anyone who enjoys Wilde’s other works and this style of dialogue. The play is dry humor with no action which must be expected. There is no foul language and is suitable for all ages, though is designed for an adult audience.