Catty widow Lady Sneerwell (Christi Eanes, above) is at the center of Sheridan’s ’The School for Scandal.’
Below: Lady Teazle (Samantha Robison) chats with wily Joseph Surface (Zach Lewis).
Photos: Siggi Ragnar
Michael Holley asCharles Surface.
November 15, 2016
A caveman may not have captured his mate by bopping her upside the head, but you can be sure that her friends and his believed he did and spread the word as far and wide as possible. Yep, scandalmongering has always been a favorite pastime. It was so in 1777 when Richard Brinsley Sheridan wrote the delicious satire The School for Scandal, and it is undeniably true today when social media make instantaneous spreading of gossip and rumors almost de rigueur.
Adept director Diane Malone proves
it with the cunning production now
playing at The Classic Theatre. Her
version retains most of Sheridan’s
florid, witty script and characters but
sets it in contemporary times when
everyone has a cell phone. Her large,
exceptionally strong cast is
unfailingly energetic and comical.
The premise hangs on skewering the
idle rich, the spoiled hoity toity who
relish gossip and innuendo with
absolutely no thought of
consequences. At its center is Lady
Sneerwell (saucy chatterbox Christi
Eanes), a widow whose life was
almost ruined because of slander.
She now devotes herself to vengeance
by being as hurtful as possible. As
often as possible.
Her latest target is Sir Peter Teazle
(drawn as frustrated but amiable by
John O'Neill) and his much younger
new bride, Lady Teazle (cheerfully
narcissistic Samantha Robison). Lady
Sneerwell admits to desiring dissolute
Charles Surface (the excellent Michael
Holley), who supposedly has a yen for
Sir Peter's gentle ward, Maria (Becca
Broyles). She, by the way, is the only
one of the lot who does not engage in
gossip. And there is Charles's elder brother Joseph Surface (talented San Antonio newcomer Zach Lewis), who also has his eye on Maria.
The brothers have been financially supported by their uncle, Sir Oliver (Joe De Mott) who has has just returned after 16 years in India. They don't recognize him, of course, and we soon learn that he has hatched a plot to discover which of his nephews deserves his inheritance.
There are other characters, as well, most making their entrances after being announced via a text message on a ringing cell phone. One of the most amusing is Alexa McLatcher as the wide-eyed, breathless, over-the-top gossip Mrs. Candour, who has no idea that most of her catty remarks actually describe herself. The remainder of the free-wheeling cast (some in multiple roles) involves servants, friends and others, well-played by Richard Solis, Holly Clifford, Steven Starr and Chad Thompson.
Confusing? Perhaps, but stick with the play's wildly comical scenes and pacing to find that it does sort itself out.
Christine King's handsome, spare set involves jewel-tone stripes and matching fold-out panels, etc. with very little furniture. Cast members moving things during semi-blackouts permits brisk scene shifts accompanied by Rick Malone's largely techno-motorific sound design. Jodi Karjala and Terri Peña Ross created a charming gemischt of quasi-contemporary costumes, some as loud as their wearers, others – such as the tan leisure suit or an ultra-wide orange shirt collar – just plain funky.
It's all great fun, and if there is a lesson to be learned, it's think twice before hitting that “send” key.
The School for Scandal runs through November 27 at The Classic Theatre, 1924 Fredericksburg Rd. Call 589-8450.
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