The Ladies of Sugarbaker's Grace
'Lady Windermere's Fan'
July is the month to catch your favorite "Designing" women on stage, beginning with Jean Smart and Dixie Carter, who are both headlining productions of Oscar Wilde's Lady Windermere's Fan.
Written in 1892, Lady Windermere's Fan was the first of Oscar Wilde's brilliant social comedies. A delightfully humorous farce, the play chronicles a series of deceptions and misunderstandings in the high society world of Victorian London, while also serving to attack the rigidity of Victorian morality.
The story centers around Lady Margaret Windermere, who naively believes that her husband is in sexual and financial thrall to the scandalous Mrs Erlynne.
Lord Winderemere has indeed been visiting Mrs. Erlynne and paying her money -- but not for the reason Lady Windermere suspects.
Betrayed and confused, Lady Windermere decides she will accept the advances of Lord Darlington in hopes of exacting revenge on her husband. What she doesn't know, and what Lord Windermere doesn't want anyone to find out, is the true identity of Mrs. Erlynne, who must step in to save Lady Windermere from damaging her own reputation.
At the core of the drama is the mysterious Mrs. Erlynne, arguably one of the most interesting female characters ever to be written by a man in the 19th century, and she is currently being portrayed by not one, but two, former employees of Sugarbaker's Design Firm.
The Shakespeare Theatre in Washington D.C. completes its 2004-2005 season with a production of Lady Windermere's Fan, starring Dixie Carter in the role of Mrs. Erlynne. The play, which opened June 7 to rave reviews, continues through July 31.
Under the direction of Keith Baxter, Lady Winderere's Fan is said to be "a temptation not to be resisted" by The Washington Sun.
"Dixie Carter is devastatingly sexy as Mrs. Erlynne, the Lady in Red, whose deep dark secret sets the plot in motion..." ~ The Wall Street Journal
"It is the strength and warmth of Carter's performance
that provides the play's steely backbone." ~ The Washington Post
Meanwhile, the Williamstown Theatre Festival opened its 2005 season on July 6 with Lady Windermere's Fan on its Main Stage, featuring Jean Smart in the pivotal role of Mrs. Erlynne.
"As Lady Erlynne, Jean Smart has the most dashing role in the play and seems to revel in it." ~ Berkshire Theatre Reviews
"From her grand entrance into the Windermeres' party to her graceful and painful departure from their lives, Smart lends an extra touch of class to the production." ~ North Adams Transcript
Tony and Emmy nominated director Moisés Kaufman gives direction to the Festival's presentation of Wilde's deliciously witty satire, which is enjoying a very limited run through this Sunday, July 17.
Tickets for both shows are available at their respective websites. For more information, visit The Shakespeare Theatre or The Williamstown Theatre Festival.
**Sources: The Carbaret: dixiecarter.com, Smart Stuff: Officially Jean Smart
Dixie Carter Photos by Carol Rosegg. Also pictured are Andrew Long as Lord Windermere and Tessa Auberjonois as Lady Windermere.
Jean Smart Photos by Richard Feldman. Also pictured is Samantha Soule as Lady Windermere.