By Sandi Durell
Written by Richard Brinsley Sheridan, and produced in 1777 at the Drury Lane Theatre, The School for Scandal invokes the Restoration comedy period (English comedies during the Restoration period from 1660-1710 post Puritan regime). This funny and clever tattletale, gossipy play, is brimming with theatricality and a larger-than-life cast of characters currently in residence at the Lucille Lortel Theatre, a part of Red Bull Theater’s current season, and deliciously directed by Marc Vietor.
Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, rings loud and clear as rich widow Lady Sneerwell (a frosty clever Frances Barber) sets out to do unto others. Slandered as a young woman, she works closely with gossip critic Mr. Snake (a flamingly comedic Jacob Dresch) to create scandal for the recent May-December marriage of the pretty cunning country girl Lady Teazle (Helen Cespedes) who married older bachelor Sir Peter (a perfect Mark Linn-Baker) for fortune and a place in society. All the while, Sneerwell seeks to create havoc between brothers Joseph (Christian Conn) and the drinking extravagant Charles Surface (Christian DeMarais) and Sir Peter’s ward Maria (a sensitive Nadine Malouf, who is pursued by both) in order to gain Charles for herself.
The social group of upper class hypocrites gather regularly to undo and assassinate just about anyone’s reputation and includes the queen of the gossips Mrs. Candour (a regally superb Dana Ivey), questionable poet Sir Benjamin Backbite (Ryan Garbayo), and his uncle Mr. Crabtree (a lavish Derek Smith). And, if you haven’t noticed, the characters are duly named and descriptive.
Sir Peter’s long time friend Sr. Oliver Surface (Henry Stram), recently returned from the Far East, is concerned about his two nephews, Charles and Joseph, as he needs to eventually dispose of his fortune but must first unearth their true natures to find out who is the most deserving, and so he designs a test to catch them unawares going incognito as Mr. Stanley and Mr. Premium with money lender Mr. Midas (Derek Smith) to visit his nephews.
It’s all cloak and dagger, tongue in cheek humor in Moliere-esque drawing room style, where morality has significantly lapsed as we watch the ultimate rumor- mongers ply their trade in the most spiteful ways.
The cast is rounded out by Bradley Gibson as Sir Toby Bumper, companion to Charles. The colorful, extravagant period costumes are by Andrea Lauer; easy, movable scenic design by Anna Louizos; outrageous wigs are by Charles G. LaPointe; choreography by Paul McGill; lighting by Russell H. Champa with sound and music by Greg Pliska.
The School for Scandal will keep you laughing with delightfully scandalous merriment.
Runs thru May 8 – 121 Christopher Street – www.redbulltheater.com
212 352-3101 – 2 hours, 30 minutes (with intermission)
Photos: Carol Rosegg