"LADY WINDERMERE'S FAN" Review

THE THEATER MIRROR, Boston's LIVE Theater Guide


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entire contents copyright 1995 by Larry Stark


"Lady Windermere's Fan"

                          Written by Oscar Wilde
                      Directed by Robert J. Bouffier

                  Lady Windermere..........Linda Amendola
                  Parker..................Mitchell Mullen
                  Lord Darlington...........Gregory Grene
                  Dutchess of Berwick.....Marjorie Burren
                  Lady Agatha.........Charlotte Anne Dore
                  Lord Windermere............Jolyon Reese
                  Mr. Dumby.................Jonathan Duke
                  Lady Plymdale...........Elizabeth Whyte
                  Lady Stutfield............Maura O'Brien
                  Lady Jedburgh...............Marisa Bela
                  Mr. Parker........Robert Carroll Rogers
                  Lord Augustus Lorton.......Erik Parillo
                  Mr. Cecil Graham...........Colin Stokes
                  Mrs. Erlynne..................Marina Re
                  Rosalie.................Elizabeth Whyte

                        Set Design by Robert Kramer
                   Costume Design by Andrew J. Poleszak
                     Lighting Design by Jennifer Simon
                         Stage Manager Ron Rhodes

                    at the LYRIC STAGE through 10 March
                       140 Clarendon Street. BOSTON
                              1(617)437-7172
    

"Lady Windermere's Fan", one of Oscar Wilde's comedies of bad manners, is a hundred and three years old. It is a credit to this Lyric Stage production, then, to say that both the play and the large cast are never upstaged by Andrew J. Poleszak's elaborate, breathtaking period costumes. Nothing sets the style of the play more than the postures and movements dictated by these dinner jackets and sweeping ball-gowns.

I saw the show early, in Sunday's preview performance, when it seemed that Director Robert J. Bouffier, working back-to- front, had not yet dealt with the first half of the play --- the parts which set all the little traps to be very expertly sprung in the meatier acts III and IV. No doubt things improved by Wednesday's opening, but on Sunday the cast started out listening to what each other said in rapt, wide-eyed, face-value acceptance. No one seemed willing either to toss aside a throw-away or thrust a tongue into a cheek. Uttered with sincerity, Wilde's lines edge into self-parody and exaggerated posturing.

But there's none of that in the second half. With the entrance of Marina Re as Mrs. Erlynne --- a disgraced woman whose reputation and perhaps her virtue come with price-tags --- substance and nonsense are clearly defined and all performances take on a depth and conviction that never flags. And if the cast gets a firm grip on the early froth, as they have the later red meat, the Lyric will have a winner.

The lines are drawn in act one with gossip that Lord Windermere(Jolyon Reese), two years married and two months a father, has been visiting Mrs. Erlynne checkbook in hand. His shocked wife (Linda Amendola) swears to strike her across the face with that eponymous fan should she appear at Lady Windermere's birthday ball. It's enough to make any self-respecting wife run to the arms of an eager young lover, isn't it?

During that ball, the three-quarters-round Lyric stage is swelled by ladies in powdered shoulders, frills and flounces --- Marjorie Burren, Charlotte Anne Dore, Elizabeth Whyte, Maura O'Brien, and Marisa Bela --- while later that night the gentlemen --- Gregory Grene, Jonathan Duke, Robert Carroll Rogers, Erik Parillo, and Colin Stokes --- assemble for brandies, whiskey-sodas and cards. The ladies prattle, the gents banter, and satiric sallies cross verbal swords with epigrams at every turn, until Linda Amendola and Marina Re square off, alone on stage, mano-a- mano with the gloves off at last. Act III, with this scene and the men's locker-room bantering, was the pinnacle of Sunday's performance.

It's Gregory Grene as the young lover Lord Darlington who first mentions that fan, and "selflessly" reveals the gossip of Lord Windermere's apparent infidelities. The scene, in fact the entire first act, was flat and shapeless Sunday, and gave the audience no hint of the triumphs to come. Still, that's what previews are for. Perhaps I should come back on closing night, to see what improves.


THE THEATER MIRROR, Boston's LIVE Theater Guide


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