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LADY WINDERMERE’S FAN at Irish Classical wraps up season in high style

THE BASICS: LADY WINDERMERE’S FAN, a comedy by Oscar Wilde presented by the Irish Classical Theatre Company, directed by Josephine Hogan, runs through Sunday, June 24, Thursdays and Fridays at 7:30 p.m., Saturdays at both 3 and 7:30, and Sundays at 2 at the Andrews Theatre, home of the ICTC, 625 Main Street in downtown Buffalo. (853-ICTC). Full service bar, pretzels. Runtime: 2 hours, with one 10-minute intermission.

THUMBNAIL SKETCH: In this high-society Victorian comedy, on the eve of innocent Lady Windermere’s (Arianne Davidow) 21st birthday party, arranged by her older husband, Lord Windermere (Matt Witten), she is gently seduced by Lord Darlington (Ben Michael Moran), sweet talking which might go nowhere, except after she has been informed that her husband has regularly been paying lavish sums of money to a woman of disrepute, the disgraced and enigmatic “Mrs. Erlynn” (Kate LoConti). Suspecting the worst, and now in a fit of pique, young Lady Windermere rashly decides to leave her husband and infant child to run off with Darlington. Will she be dissuaded from this grave error of youthful judgement? And if so, by whom? Perhaps by someone who made the same mistake herself, years ago.

Arianne Davidow as Lady Windermere; Matt Witten as Lord Windermere; and Kate LoConti as the mysterious Mrs. Erlynne

THE PLAYERS, THE PLAY, AND THE PRODUCTION: As I’ve mentioned in other reviews, at the Irish Classical Theatre, we alternate between plays about scrappy down and outers (often Irish) on one hand and then fashionable drawing room comedies on the other. With either genre, the ICTC is almost always at the top of their game, as they are here. And why not, as they are directed by an ICTC founder, Josephine Hogan.  

The play has been admirably cast with mostly ICTC regulars, including the imperious Matt Witten as Lord Windermere, and with Buffalo’s greatest upper class “twit” impersonator, Ben Michael Moran, as Lord Darlington, and the indomitable, she-of-perfect-diction, Kate LoConti as Mrs. Erlynne. Typically these kinds of plays, especially Wilde’s, are chock full of dialogue, and LoConti always, always delivers with Maggie Smith quality bite.

The lovely Arianne Davidow has been taking on bigger and bigger roles in Buffalo and was wonderfully cast as Lady Windermere herself.

And what would drawing room comedies be without an exasperated butler? Here Buffalo favorite David Lundy delivers as Parker. Along the way, ICTC veterans provide solid support including Christian Brandjes as the somewhat dopey Lord Augustus and Chris Kelly as the caustic Mr. Cecil Graham. One charming note: Josephine Hogan and Vincent O’Neill’s son Jamie O’Neill plays a minor role, Mr. Hopper.

The lovely Arianne Davidow has been taking on bigger and bigger roles in Buffalo and was wonderfully cast as Lady Windermere herself. One of the great difficulties in these comedies is having all of the actresses behave with the haughtiness associated with their titles, wealth, breeding, and position in society, delivering a drop-dead line or two in character, and then quickly fading into the ensemble. And so kudos to Colleen Gaughan as the Duchess of Berwick, Emily Collins as Lady Agatha Carlisle, Jaimee Harmon as Lady Plymdale, and Kathleen Betsko Yale as Lady Jedburgh.

Did the playwright Oscar Wilde really tell an American customs agent: “I have nothing to declare but my genius?” Probably not, but the reason that line lives on is because we want to believe it and you will believe it when you attend LADY WINDERMERE’S FAN.

UP NEXT: The Irish Classical Theatre Company opens their 2018-2019 season with American playwright Clifford Odets’ GOLDEN BOY about a young man choosing between the serious life of a violinist versus a prize fighter’s life of fast money, cars, and women.

Lead image: Matt Witten and Arianne Davidow. Photos by Gene Witkowski.

ONE BUFFALO: This means trouble. A dreadful play, a highly flawed production, or both. Unless there is some really compelling reason for you to attend (i.e. you are the parent of someone who is in it), give this show a wide berth.

TWO BUFFALOS: Passable, but no great shakes. Either the production is pretty far off base, or the play itself is problematic. Unless you are the sort of person who’s happy just going to the theater, you might look around for something else.

THREE BUFFALOS: I still have my issues, but this is a pretty darn good night at the theater. If you don’t go in with huge expectations, you will probably be pleased.

FOUR BUFFALOS: Both the production and the play are of high caliber. If the genre/content are up your alley, I would make a real effort to attend.

FIVE BUFFALOS: Truly superb–a rare rating. Comedies that leave you weak with laughter, dramas that really touch the heart. Provided that this is the kind of show you like, you’d be a fool to miss it!

Written by Peter Hall

Peter Hall

Peter Hall continues trying to figure out how "it" all works. For 20 years, as program host on Classical 94.5 WNED and continuing on-stage with the Buffalo Chamber Music Society, he's conducted over 1,000 interviews with artists as he asks them to explain, in layman's terms, "what's the big picture here?"

As mentioned recently in Buffalo Spree magazine, Peter's "Buffalo Rising reviews are the no-holds barred 'everyman's' take." And, on “Theater Talk” (heard Friday mornings at 6:45 and 8:45 a.m. on WBFO 88.7 FM and Saturday afternoons at 5:55 p.m. on Classical 94.5 WNED) his favorite question of co-host Anthony Chase is simply "What's goin' on?"

A member of Buffalo's Artie Awards Committee, Peter holds a B.A. in Comparative Literature from Columbia University and an M.B.A. from SUNY at Buffalo. For over twenty-five years he has been an adjunct professor for Canisius College’s Richard J. Wehle School of Business.

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