“We need another act,” and so begins Act 2 of “Lady Windermere’s Fan.” In this Binghamton University Mainstage play, nothing is left unsaid.
The farcical Oscar Wilde play revolves around the complicated marriage between Lord and Lady Windermere — played by Eric Berger and Stephanie Herlihy, both of whom are seniors majoring in theatre, respectively — as Lady Windermere accuses her husband of infidelity.
“I created a chorus of 1892 people who are — like old-fashioned audiences used to do — constantly talking to the characters onstage and trying to get them to do things that will make their lives more miserable for them, but more enjoyable for the chorus,” said Tom Kremer, the director of the play and a professor in the theatre department.
Kremer chooses to break the fourth wall in his production by adding stage directions, improvised jokes and judgments from additional characters. The choice is unique to the BU production.
“I created an adaptation of the play,” Kremer said. “I adapted it so that it would fit more into the world of social media and what’s happening there.”
Berger said he loves the new direction Kremer takes with this production, and said that the themes of the show are still relevant today.
“People still interact the same way in today’s society as then — being two-faced, gossiping, trying to keep their reputations and vying for love,” he said.
The play, set in London, requires actors to speak in British accents for the duration of the show. For this production of “Lady Windermere’s Fan,” the cast, along with Kremer, all spoke in British accents for each rehearsal.
Despite the challenges often faced when performing a period piece, including speaking in an accent, Herlihy said that the relevant social commentary makes the material accessible for the actors.
“The time period and world offer a unique challenge due to the costumes and language,” Herlihy said. “Wilde’s use of language is beautiful but challenging.”
“Lady Windermere’s Fan” is as clever as any Wilde play. At one point, addressing someone’s newborn male child, one woman says, “I’m so sorry — boys are so weird.” Every scene is filled with silly quips and Wilde’s unique humor. But underneath his comedy is something more serious — true anxieties about relationships, the end of the 19th century and the beginnings of the modern world.
“Marriage is going out of fashion,” Lord Darlington decrees. Wilde’s witty lines, while funny, serve as commentary on the world around him. Lord Darlington, played by Jeff Tagliaferro, a senior majoring in theatre, acts as a model of the kind of person who was seen as interfering with the norms of the social elite.
In the late 1800s, as homophobia became more prevalent, many young men of high society were punished for sodomy. In 1895, three years after “Lady Windermere’s Fan” was first performed in London, Wilde was imprisoned for homosexuality.
“Oscar Wilde just wanted everyone to live the way they wanted to live,” Kremer said. “So what he would do [in] all of his plays, this one included, [is] mock the people who claimed to be the moral majority — who set what was moral and immoral.”
“Lady Windermere’s Fan” will run in Watters Theatre from April 28 to May 7. Tickets are available online and in the Anderson Center box office to the public for $18 and to students for $10.