Theatre Mirror Reviews - "The School for Scandal"

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note: entire contents copyright 2000 by Larry Stark


"The School for Scandal"

by Richard Brindsley Sheridan
Directed by Jeffrey Jones
Assistant Director Krista Watson
Score Composed by David Bell
Occasional Prologue by Todd Hearon
Occasional Epilogue by Maggie Dietz

Costumes and Properties Designed by Rosemary Ellis & Emily Brandt
Settings Designed by Rosemary Ellis & Jeffrey Jones

Clarinet.....................Christopher Bush
Violin.............................Mona Rashad
Violin............................Jesse Holstein
Oboe...........................Ariel Temianka
Viola.........................Amanda Zusman
Cello............................Jacques Wood

Lady Sneerwell...................................................Penny Frank
Maria..............................................................Courtney Graff
Charles Surface.....................................................Steve Kidd
Joseph Surface/"Sir" Toby Bumper.............Jacob Strautmann
Lady Teazle/Trip..............................................Lea Contarino
Sir Peter Teazle/Gentleman.....................................Bill Salem
Sir Benajmin Backbite/Moses...........................Angel Connell
Sir Oliver Surface/Actor-Manager/Servant........Dan Koughan
Crabtree/Careless......................................................Erin Bell
Mrs. Candour/Rowley........................................Melissa Allen
Snake/Servant #1/#2/& #3/Gentleman..............Holly Vanasse

This show is so funny in so many different ways it's hard to know where to begin! Start with Richard Brindsley Sheridan's devastatingly satirical scandal-mongers, who can hear of a marital misunderstanding and by second or third-hand have the principals wounded in a duel that never took place, and willing only to argue if sword-thrust or pistol-slug laid the feller low. The mere character names (Sneerwell, Backbite, Teazle, Snake!) says it all, and his swift, dizzying spin of subterfuge and scheme has been calling forth guffaws for a couple centuries already. And that's just the beginning....!

These rich and titled Englishmen are of course pompous and flowery to the nth degree, and The Bridge Theatre Company's director Jeffrey Jones plays on this by exaggerations whenever possible. When Dan Koughan comes on first as Actor-Manager to deliver the prologue he strikes an attitude such as General Wolff might have in dispatching troops at the battle of Quebec and stands statuesque as...well as a statue, declaiming it. Throughout the show, stance and style eloquently proclaim just how much these haughty people think of themselfs.

Yet again, this play comes from that Age of Excess when moneys from INNdjah and American plantations was spent on flowing farthingales and topiary coiffeurs so ornate that wig-makers paid landscape architects to design them, and three or four at least in this company look like mountains of spun-sugar defying gravity --- and those for the men!

Ah yes, the men. Fact is, save for wigs and cuffs and fiddly little details, the entire company (of only eleven) are dressed identically in pure white jersey blouses and tight beige toreador-trousers that, as was the fashion with Napoleon, snugly and sleekly define and emphasize their ...contents. This basic uniformity coupled with riotously different detailing is very efficient, because four ladies in the company in addition to their feminine portrayals also dash back onstage to play no less than nine different men, of varied ages, temperaments, and stations in society. Only three of the cast do no doubling, but there are twenty-three different characters named. Keeping who is whom at any given moment straight would thus be difficult enough if the general hilarity wasn't making it so beastly impossible.

In Sheridan's day, the theatre majors among you must recall, the swells came to the playhouse to see themselves lampooned, and then popped 'round to the greenrooms to compliment the cast on how well all their silly friends had been sent-up. Well, for this production, the greenroom is visible In The Very Playspace! A deep thrust apron surrounded on three sides is the main playing platform, with a curtained rear area that can be used. Two plainly dressed stagehands walk in and out setting scenery as the Actor-Manager announces the new scenes, but back off to stage-right, where a table sits waiting to go on, the cast and crew can be seen playing cards! (Whist, they say.)

They take it all at a gallop, and the quips and jibes and raillery comes bubblin out so fast you can hardly laugh at it all. Sometimes the actors are so busy upstaging one another they wind themselfs up like a merry-go round! And of course the honest hero may be a tippler and a wastrel, but his heart is pure and wins his lady, while all the sly dissemblers get their just desserts, and oh, there was much, much more I'm sure but I was laughing so hard I barely saw the half of it and think I'll have to go back again to see what I missed!

See ya there, will I?

Love,
===Anon.


"The School for Scandall" (till 29 July)
THE BRIDGE THEATRE COMPANY
Black Box Theatre, Boston Center for The Arts, 539 Tremont Street, BOSTON
1(617)426-2727

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