Lady Windermere’s Fan
by Oscar Wilde
At the Shakespeare Theater in Washington D.C. through July 31, 2005
The Nobel Prize poet Joseph Brodsky once said art is not reality because art does not resort to the repetitious and the cliched. He further explained art might reflect life; it has its own dynamic, but is a runaway train which “society boards or does not board.”
Wilde boards the train and with him brings the panorama of London society in the Victorian Age. This is the play that would win him wealth and reputation before his own life was ruined by social scorn. The play is a nonstop sermon played with expansion and precision by the cast. It is an adventure in semantics, epigrams and compressed philosophy.
Keith Baxter, one of England’s finest directors, chooses to let the words do their highwire acts, while respecting the melodramatics on which the play is based – a combination of French farce, and Irish satire.
Good and evil, right and wrong, charming and tedious people, all change places around a secret that only the audience knows. Lucky for us, Baxter chooses visual beauty, lavish costumes and scenery, to pad the plot. The actors received the gratitude of the audience, including actor Dixie Carter who is a designing woman for sure, playing Mrs. Erlynne with controlled passion.
In the final act when the butlers are pulling pink satin ribbons from the chandeliers, the audience regrets the party is over. When Oscar Wilde brings reason and intuition together to create comedy, we have more than fun. We have revelation.
Grace Cavalieri is a Playwright, a Poet, and Producer of “The Poet and the Poem from the Library of Congress" on public radio.