Review by Liz Eichler of “Lady Windermere’s Fan”: CCM Acting

I love a good Oscar Wilde play. Wilde was an aesthete – a lover of beauty, a personality, and an a multifaceted Victorian Irishman. “Lady Windermere’s Fan,” produced October 2-6 at University of Cincinnati’s CCM Acting Program, is one of Wilde’s first successful plays, written as an English comedy of manners, with sophistication, accents, wit, pomposity, love, innocence, and a sprinkle of naughtiness.  Presenting this genre is extremely hard to do, especially for a college, but CCM’s Acting Program has delivered a production of which they should be proud.

Zoe Cotzias in “Lady Windermere’s Fan”

“Lady Windermere’s Fan” has the subtitle “A Play About a Good Woman.” The play attempts to define and denounce “good.” It is the story of Lady Margaret Windermere (Zoe Cotzias) as she prepares to celebrate her birthday with a small ball that evening. She was raised by a father in a rather black and white world (one is either good or bad) and when her husband (Eli Lucas) asks her to invite Mrs. Erlynne (Olivia Buss), a woman known to be bad by society, Lady Windermere balks. Erlynne eventually attends the ball, amid whispers, yet we meet a beautiful, powerful woman. There are some wonderful moments as you follow the complications of love and honor. And some of Wilde’s clever lines are highlighted – “We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars,” “I can resist anything but temptation,” and “Gossip is charming!…But scandal is gossip made tedious by morality.” There are many laughs, including “only once have I known a mother’s feelings…they were terrible!” The entire ensemble does an admirable job, earning a standing ovation.

Before the show, as the audience awaits, you marvel at a three-story window, substantial interior archways, and a lovely oriental rug, evoking a simple, but well-appointed room. You know you are in society, especially as the rich classical pre-show music guides you to another time and place. The musical interludes are well chosen and have some fun at the end (sound designer Zachory Evans).

The archways are highlighted by dramatic and rich lighting, (lighting designer Rachael Blackwell) guiding you through the emotions of the play, and tightly focused moments. What a joy to watch the scene changes, as director Susan Felder makes them seamless and integrated, using the servants to further illustrate the world revolves around the main characters. Felder ensures her cast utilizes every portion of the set (including behind the curtains!) making sure the audience is always able to see and hear the performers.

The clothing is magnificent! Costume designer Christa Hanks has joined together a world of beautiful day dresses and sumptuous ball gowns, well fitting suits, and servants’ dresses and livery. The main characters pop in jewel tones, while the others are richly textured neutrals, all topped off by lovely millinery. During the curtain call is where you will see the painstaking age makeup (Makeup and Wigs by Oran Wongpandid) which for the most part, made these college students appear believably older. 

The director’s notes mention that the play came a few years after Ibsen’s groundbreaking “A Doll’s House,” which rocked society then–and still today—as we still question how a mother can abandon or forget a child.  Try to catch the last performances of “Lady Windermere’s Fan.” You will get to chew on some universal themes, such as motherhood, love, gossip and honor, wrapped in a beautiful package. Call the Box Office at 513-556-4183.