By Lawson Taitte / The Dallas Morning News
PLANO – Adventurous play selection cuts both ways for a small theater company. It might attract regular theatergoers looking for something a little different. Frequently, though, unusual scripts have unusual requirements difficult for small groups to meet.
Rover Dramawerks has consistently produced works seldom seen hereabouts. Its vehicles to date, sadly, have been underpowered. Its latest project – Lady Windermere's Fan, directed by Carol M. Rice – opened at Plano's ArtCentre Theatre on Thursday. This production also strains to do its play justice – but it comes closer than the comedy's previous efforts.
Oscar Wilde's classic play curiously blends elements of melodrama and drawing-room comedy. The title character, a very young wife (Audra Hatchett), takes pride in her high moral standards. When rumors that her husband (Marc Rouse) is spending vast sums of money on a mysterious older woman, Mrs. Erlynne (Paige Reynolds), reach her, she finds them hard to credit. She is as surprised as she is outraged when Lord Windermere insists she invite his supposed mistress to their party.
Rover Dramawerks' production is easier on the ears than on the eyes. The large cast manages upper-class English accents better than most amateurs. Lady Windermere's Fan includes some of Wilde's best-known bits of wit, and many of them are delivered with panache.
Visually, things are cruder. Attempts at period realism on a slim budget seldom fare well. There's not enough detail, and what there is is often wrong. The flat-toned lighting plot leaves no space for poetry, and many of the costumes are ill cut or don't quite fit. One problem could be fixed at no expense: London aristocrats in 1892 definitely did not wear this much lipstick, rouge and eye makeup.
Ms. Reynolds has the true starring part, and she brings both grace and mystery to it. Alison Davies as a dowager duchess delivers some of Wilde's neatest paradoxes with delicious drollery. A couple of the sillier men do quite well, too – Ben Schroth as a blustery lord and Matthew J. Edwards as one of Wilde's supercilious mouthpieces for his own cynicism.
Lady Windermere's Fan, presented by Rover Dramawerks at ArtCentre Theatre, 1028 15th Place, Plano, Thursdays through Saturdays through Feb. 1. Tickets $10 to $14. Call 214-796-9246.