George Brown Theatre School takes on Oscar Wilde in this classic play, now playing in Toronto
Playing at the Young Centre for the Performing Arts in Toronto’s Distillery District, Lady Windermere’s Fan is a well-executed 120-year-old Oscar Wilde classic. The George Brown cast and crew do a fine job of pulling us into high society London with a story of love, lies and sacrifice.
The play starts off with a bang thanks to Adele’s Rumour Has It being pumped out. The choice of Adele’s music was unexpected given the time period, but nonetheless successful. It got us in the mood for some juicy gossip.
The revelation of secrets comes quickly, after Lady Windermere (Julia Vescio) receives attention from the smooth talker Lord Darlington (played by a dashing Jack Rennie), and then welcomes her next guest, the Duchess of Berwick (Chelsea Woodard). The Duchess reveals that Lord Windermere (Michael Ruderman) has been paying regular visits to a lower-class woman named Mrs. Erlynne (Zara Jestadt) and has spent vast amounts on her. Gasp!
The story develops as we learn more about Lord Windermere’s supposed affair, Mrs. Erlynne’s regretful past, and Lord Darlington’s amorous feelings for Lady Windermere (a little lamb who asks the Duchess, “Are all men bad?”). We are also reminded of how appearances can be deceiving, how morality is not black and white, and how easy it is to judge a stranger with a mysterious background.
While we touch upon these heavy themes, we get our share of laughter. Rennie made Darlington delightfully arrogant, and Jestadt has the men wrapped around Mrs. Erlynne’s finger, appropriating the stage at every arrival. Woodard provided much comic relief in playing the Duchess, a bossy, judgmental trouble-maker. For me, this last character was my favourite. Woodard was hilarious and domineering, and her accent never faltered unlike that of some of her peers. She projected herself as someone from the upper classes with her body, her tone, her pronunciation and, of course, her smart-ass comments. Woodard is one to watch.
My guest and I were also entertained by the set changes, which were performances in themselves. Crew members were dressed as domestics as they set up the props, walking swiftly and maintaining good posture. There was a particularly striking moment when two servants fastened the chandelier to some kind of lowered hook. It illuminated the dark set with several small lights as it spun upwards towards the ceiling.
All in all, Lady Windermere’s Fan is a play to watch, but you’ll have to do it before November 21! As a bonus, you’ll hear Adele’s music and see cool choreographed moves during set changes and the final bow. It’s a small venue, so get your tickets fast.
- Lady Windermere’s Fan is playing until November 21, 2015 at the Young Centre of the Arts (50 Tank House Lane)
- Ticket prices range from $8 to $20, including taxes.
- To book tickets call the Young Centre Box Office at 416.866.8666 or click here.
Photo supplied by George Brown Theatre School.