Lady Windermere’s Fan
by Oscar Wilde
Read by Orlando Theater Project and Seminole Community College
Carl F Gauze
In the oh-so-proper 1890’s beautiful and astoundingly naive Lady Windermere (Gina Riviera) believes any gossip that comes her way. Coupled with her husband’s slightly mysterious business arrangements, she begins to doubt his fidelity. The flirtatious Mrs. Erlynne (Jennifer Nelson) has taken a strange grasp on the hearts of all the men in Mayfair, and Lord Windermere seems to pay for her upkeep! The Duchess of Berwick (Christine Decker) firmly believes all men are scum, and who is Lady Windermere to doubt? Couple this with the Victorian habit of asking half a question, getting half an answer, and interpreting the results in the most awful way possible, and the classic drawing room comedy ensues. Wilde rescues this dreadful form, using it as a stalking horse for his steady stream of sound bites. If Wilde were alive today, he’d be President.
With a minimal set, but very nice costumes, this differs from a full production only in that the players have librettos to read. Prior to the play, Butler Parker (Bill Mitchell) flits around the lobby, assuring guests they will each have the best seat in the house while chiding maid Rosalie (Dana Wilson) to dust, clean, sweep, anything. A shame he wasn’t able to pass out small glasses of Sherry.
Wilde spent his career as an aesthete commenting on the mores and vanities of fin-de-siècle society. Lady Windermere lampoons society through the popular theater of the day, played to absurdist limits. Nobody takes any care to verify their worst fears, more for politeness’ sake than any real lack of curiosity. People prepare to leave house and home and fly away, based on nothing more than overheard gossip, misplaced sense of honor, and blind misunderstanding. Lady W is herself thoroughly good, and it takes a thoroughly good woman to do something thoroughly stupid.