Review: School for Scandal at Classical Theatre
Lady Sneerwell (Lindsay Ehrhardt) and her low-rent executioner, Mr. Patrons swing their feet out of the way, some stand up to let them pass freely, as the two continue their pitiful conversation unconcerned about those they are interrupting. It’s a fitting visual for the social unrest they will eventually cause. They don’t care. They enjoy the mess. Mrs. Sneerwell thrives on it.
This is the guiding principle of Sheridan’s view of his Georgian upper-class world – one of gossip and intrigue, backbiting and gossip and slander openly mocked in elegant drawing rooms and candlelit libraries with wit and witty epigrams. ripples instead of drills and pistols. This is a comedy of manners, a comedy of manners, a masterpiece of form, character, dialogue, plot.
A huge hit at its premiere, even among audiences who bowed out, it propelled Sheridan to superstardom and secured his place as the most celebrated playwright of his time. Rivals, his previous play, had made his reputation, but the School made his fortune. That he would eventually lose it all, dying under a mountain of debt, even after 32 years as an MP and owner of London’s Drury Lane Theater is the subject of another play, but in 1777 he had the world in his lap. his velvet. the legs.
In the Classical Theater Company’s inventive production, there are no candles, no books, no gowns, no pens, no silk lamps, all the paraphernalia you could want in a late 18th century play. No, well sir or madam, we find ourselves in an ordinary scene filled with acting rubbish. There is that ubiquitous stage ladder, wheelchairs, wardrobe trunks, light stands and all manner of props piled in corners. We can see up to the stage where more stuff is stored. And the original 16 characters in Sheridan will be played by an acting sextet, doubling then tripling the parts.
But fear not, we’re in capable hands, because the director and adapter is Philip Lehl, one of Houston’s theater gold standards. Certainly one of our finest and most perceptive actors, Lehl is a special director, witness his recent work for Classical, Thomas Heywood’s Jacobean pictorial adventure The Fair Maid of the West. Consider Scandal as a backup. Again he lets his imagination run wild, and we’re treated to a mess of modern meta-theatrical clothing through Sheridan’s overlapping, multi-joint design.
While Sheridan provides enough wacky comedy to make Oscar Wilde cringe, Lehl adds his signature style of humor with brilliant little touches, such as having the innocent intelligence character Maria played by a Barbie doll. , directed by all; or Mrs. Candour, the gossip monger (Ronnie Blaine, loopy and fey) who bares one of his shoulders in his long-sleeved T-shirt to create an attractive fashion look and carries her stuffed dog in a carrier small. Later, he will bark when she leaves in a huff. There’s a mini version of Mission Impossible – with its iconic theme and spotlights – when Sir Teazle’s butler, with a Ken doll in tow, dressed in black as a butler, screams over furniture, somersaults in the air, all for fulfill a small order. . When Lady Teazle interrupts hypocrite Joseph (John Johnston) branding Maria, she announces, “Child, you’re wanted in the next room” and throws Barbie into her arms. Stupidity raised to high standards.
The cast of six played together beautifully without succumbing to any more artifice than Sheridan required. Elissa Cuellar, as Lady Teazle, is a new modern bride to the old Sir Teazle (Lehl). Their love/hate battle scenes are a joy to watch and listen to, just like any upper arm jockey. “Well, though I can’t make her love me,” says he with a twinkle, “there is certainly a great deal of pleasure in quarreling with her; and I think she never looks so good as when she is doing all she is in her power to afflict me.”
Ehrhardt is snobbery personified, dripping her nipples like cultured pearls. Danny Hayes, a newcomer to Houston theater via the British scene and the BBC, is a real find. As the debauched brother Charles, Hayes pulls it off with pleasant demeanor and booming voice. We want to see more of him soon. Johnston, as Charles’ brother Joseph, who pretends to be good and sensitive, is finally exposed for the fool that he is, sprinkling his ill will to the end. And Lehl, of course, whether bewildered by confounding Sir Peter or a toothy Sir Benjamin, a stripped-down student of Lady Sneerwell’s school of scandal, always finds the right way to crack a joke or express bewilderment in a startlingly original way. . His naturalistic approach is a primer in technique.
I believe Classic Theatre’s superb contemporary production of Sheridan’s masterpiece is the Houston premiere of the play. The Alley or Main Street have never done it, so who else would be the perfect fit? Welcome to the Bayou City. If you think the Duke of Sussex’s autobiography, Spare, is full of gossip and gossip, wait until you see School for Scandal under Lehl’s masterful direction. You haven’t heard anything yet.
School for Scandals continues through January 28 at 7:30pm on Thursday and Monday, January 23; 20:00 on Fridays; 20:00 on Saturdays; and 2:30 p.m. on Sundays (with post-show talks following the Sunday matinee). The DeLuxe Theatre, 3303 Lyons.. For information, call 713-963-9665 or visit classicaltheatre.org. 10 – 25 dollars.