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
incident light
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. Diane Windeler The School for Scandal runs through November 27 at The Classic Theatre, 1924 Fredericksburg Rd. Call 589-8450.
Classic Theatre: The School for Scandal How to cultivate a grapevine