Friday, August 16, 2013

Lady Windermere’s Fan by Oscar Wilde

Feodor Chin as Cecil Graham, Brian Slaten as Lord Darlington, Owiso Odera as Lord Windermere, Peter Wylie as Lord Augustus

By Joe Straw

Chalk Repertory Theatre presents Lady Windermere’s Fan by Oscar Wilde and directed by Jennifer Chang.

Lady Windermere’s Fan performed on the grounds at UCLA’s William Andrew Clark Memorial Library is thoroughly enjoyable with a rich diverse cast – a monster of a show with incredible performances.  

It has a very limited run and closes August 18 at 6:00 pm.  Come early and enjoy a picnic on the grounds before the show.  There is plenty of free parking and the grounds under the shade are extremely enticing.  Bring a hat if you are sensitive to the sun and something to wear for the early evening cool breeze in this outdoor play.  Also, bring someone younger than you to help you off the rug in the second act.

I only have a few notes to come later.  Oh, what the heck, why not have the notes now?  No, I’ve changed my mind, later.

Before the show started, during the outdoor seating, Parker (George Wyhinny) and Rosalie (Amalia Fite) do their best to get everyone seated, handing out surveys, and grumbling about their job, as they make ready.  Typical servants.

“The action of the play takes place within twenty-four hours, beginning on a Tuesday afternoon at five o’clock, and ending the next day 1:30 p.m.” – Lady Windermere’s Fan

“Is your ladyship at home this afternoon?” – Parker

“Yes – who has called?” – Lady Windermere

“Lord Darlington, my lady.” – Parker

Lady Windermere (Amielynn Abellera) asks Parker (George Wyhinny) to show Lord Darlington (Brian Slaten) in.

Lord Darlington immediately wants to touch but Lady Windermere says her hands are wet from the fixing the roses.


Darlington sees a fan lying on the table.

“And what a wonderful fan!  May I see it?” – Lord Darlington

Lady Windermere says the fan is a birthday gift from her husband and that she is throwing a party that night.

But the handsome Lord Darlington teases in extreme measures and gives naughty compliments to this young newlywed with a six-month old son.  He also suggests someone’s brief marriage may be in trouble.  But seeing that he is getting nowhere with her, at this time, he suggests being a great friend because everyone needs friends.

“We can always remain so as long as you don’t –“ – Lady Windermere

“Don’t what? “ – Lord Darlington

“Don’t spoil it by saying extravagant silly things to me.” – Lady Windermere

Lady Windermere suggests she is a Puritan, raised strictly by her father’s eldest sister after her mother died.  She believes in the sanctity marriage and would not tolerate any matrimonial misconduct.  Lord Darlington sees life differently.

“You have the modern affectation of weakness.”  Lady Windermere

“It’s only an affectation, Lady Windermere.” – Lord Darlington

Moments later Parker announces the Duchess of Berwick (Terri Reeves) and her daughter, Lady Agatha (Allie Jennings).  And they flit in, birdlike, for a visit.  The Duchess, who appears to have had an intimacy with Lord Darlington, wants him to have nothing to do with her daughter, Lady Agatha. 

The Duchess of Berwick has important news to give Lady Windermere but she has to get rid of Lord Darlington first and then send Lady Agatha to another part of the house.   And when they leave, she tells Lady Windermere that her husband Lord Windermere (Owiso Odera) has been seeing Mrs. Erlynne (Tess Lina) four or five times a week.

“And the worst of it all is that I have been told that this woman has got a great deal of money out of somebody,” – Duchess of Berwick

With the seed planted, and the Duchess gone, Lady Windermere cuts open Lord Windermere’s private bankbook to find that Lord Windermere has been giving large sum to Mrs. Erlynne.  And when he gets home she lets him have it, in the most discrete way, of course.

Lord Windermere responds that Lady Windermere should not question his love for her. Then he requests and insists that she should invite Mrs. Erlynne to the party.  Lord Windermere refuses so Lord Windermere writes the invitation himself, gives it to Parker, and away we go, to the party and the after party to the dangerous dalliances.

This is a delightful production that moves the theatregoer in many ways. The actors are a lot of fun and the show under Jennifer Chang’s direction moves briskly with wonderful pacing. 

The setting is hard to place partly because the setting, the William Andrews Clark Memorial Library and the Costume Design by Halei Parker make it appear 1970’s yet actors use electronic devices suggesting a present day setting.

The most important element missing in this production on this day was the fan, Lady Windermere fan, which seemed to be broken in the first act. I’m not sure what happened.  The fan is the most essential element of the show. The fan is in fact the title of the show Lady Windermere’s Fan.  It is mentioned by nearly everyone who sees it in almost every scene, it is a call to action in many scenes but rarely do we see it. We should not lose sight of the fan.  This is my only grievance.

from left: Feodor Chin, Scott Keiji Takeda, Allie Jennings, Teri Reeves, Owiso Odera, Amielynn Abellera, Brian Staten, Tess Lina, Peter Wylie, and George Wyhinny

Amielynn Abellera is Lady Windermere and has a slight trace of an accent, which is not English.  Still she is marvelous in the role.  But while she says no to a possible lover, there must be something in her to indicate that she says yes in her heart.  She is, after all caught in his home, late at night.

Feodor Chin is Cecil Graham, a man with political interests.  He knows Mrs. Erlynne as well, to further his political career, one assumes.

“That woman can make one do anything she wants.  How, I don’t know.” – Cecil Graham

And like all good politicians, Cecil Graham, takes a great deal of interest in himself.

Amin El Gamal is remarkable in the role of Dumby . His voice strong, his nuance divine, and the manner he moves about the stage noteworthy.  His growth as an actor since I last saw him in Anthony and Cleopatra is also remarkable.

Amalia Fite is wonderful as Rosalie, the semi-dusting maid, at the opening of the show and also in the role of Lady Plymdale. There is a lot of appreciated character work in both roles.

Allie Jennings is Lady Agatha and does well in her outings and is a very cute underling to the Duchess of Berwick

Tess Lina plays Mrs. Erlynne, the woman with a big secret.  She is so wise and knowledgeable about the makeup of men that she controls the men around her, uses them at her discretion, and makes them feel good about themselves. Lina is wonderful in the role.

Owiso Odera is Lord Windermere and his role is really interesting in that he has to keep a secret in order to maintain another secret. It would be easy to spill the secret in the first scene with his wife, but then, there would be no play.  His job would be to have his wife discover the secret by placing the participants in the same room.  But, because he plays a game he almost loses everything.  It is by all accounts a very nice performance.

Teri Reeves is the Duchess of Berwick and is an incredible actress.  She looks nothing like her photograph in the program with the long flowing hair and the expressive eyes.  Dressed conservatively with her hair pulled back she is quite another person. This statuesque actor gets the dialogue, her relationships with everyone in the cast are spot on, and her manner in which she moves about the stage is exquisite.

Brian Slaten as Lord Darlington is also a marvelous actor.  How many times does a man tell a woman that he loves her in order for her to believe him? In manner and deed Lord Darlington gives it his best shot.

“My life – my whole life.  Take it, and do with it what you will…. I love you – love you as I have never loved any living thing.  From the moment I met you I loved you, loved you blindly, adoringly, madly!”  - Lord Darlington to Lady Windermere

Of course Lord Darlington is cavalier and has a slight reputation for certain physical wants and a roving eye.  Slaten is very convincing and very funny in this role.

Scott Keiji Takeda is Hopper an Australian with a lot of money looking for a wife and has made a catch before his departure but he wants to talk to the Duke about taking his daughter to Australia.  Nicely done.

George Wyhinny plays Parker with a lot of flair and finesse.  As the manic servant his hair is slightly disheveled trying to negotiate the problems around the house but it appears that he has done a remarkable job of keeping the house in order. Wyhinny is excellent in the role.

Peter Wylie is Lord Agustus a man who has been married and divorced more than he is willing to admit.  He is looking for another mate and his eyes are on Mrs. Erlynne.  If he could just figure out what she is all about he would have only half a chance. Wylie does an excellent job.

Jennifer Chang, the director, has given Los Angeles a delightful and surprising experience.  Overall the play works on so many levels.  It has an excellent cast.  Presenting it here at the William Andrews Clark Memorial Library was an excellent idea and does wonders for a play that appears to have a lot of rich folks.  The second act, although wonderfully acted is wide in scope.  It was like going to the former Cinerama Dome, sitting in the front row, and straining to see the whole picture. The space facing the front would have been adequate enough for the presentation.

All said, I had a great time and I hope to see more of Chalk Repertory Theatre productions.

Other members of the delightful crew are as follows:

Production Stage Manager:  Ryan Harris
Stage Manager/Dramaturg:  Liv Wafler
Stage Manager:  Ian Lockwood
Scenic & Prop Design:  Art Betanzos
Lighting Design:  Rebecca Bonebrake
Costume Design:  Halei Parker
Publicity:  Shari Barrett
Dialect Coach:  London Kim
Assistant Consultant:  Colin Wambsgans
House Manager:  Nicholas Pilapil
Graphic Design:  Charity Capili

Run! Run! Run! Bring a picnic and takes someone you adore but somehow can’t make it work.   Maybe, things will change.

Tickets are $20 general admission, $10 Students/Seniors/Service, $15 Neighborhood discount and can be purchased online at or by calling 323-379-9583.

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