Keeping up with the Joneses

The School for Scandal

Written by Richard Brinsley Sheridan
Directed by Henry Wishcamper
The Gallery Players
199 14th St., Brooklyn (718/595-0547)
Equity showcase (closes Mar. 6)
Review by Jenny Sandman

"I leave my character behind me."

Act II, The School for Scandal

Sheridan's 1777 classic, The School for Scandal, was a searing indictment of London society and also a delicious comedy of manners. Disturbingly, its comments on the shallow and catty aspects of society still hold true today.

In The School for Scandal, Sir Peter Teazle has recently married a younger country girl, in the hopes that her simple upbringing will provide him with a thrifty wife. But Lady Teazle wants to join high society, and thinks nothing of spending vast quantities of Sir Peter's money. She also joins the most fashionable but most backbiting clique, led by Lady Sneerwell. Lady Sneerwell has engaged Snake the forger to help her break up the romance between Sir Charles Surface and Sir Peter's ward, Maria, hoping to get Charles for herself. Lady Teazle is tempted into conducting an affair for fashion's sake with Charles' brother, Joseph.

Meanwhile, Sir Oliver Surface arrives from his estates overseas. He wants to examine his nephews and potential heirs (Charles and Joseph) for himself, and so goes to Charles disguised as a moneylender. Charles auctions off the family portraits to Oliver, but keeps back Oliver's portrait for himself, endearing him to the old man. Oliver's visit to Joseph, disguised as a poor relation needing money, is not so successful. Then Sir Peter discovers Lady Teazle with Joseph, and all the subplots and fashionable machinations are unraveled.

The pace was slow at times, but overall this was a well-executed production. The principal cast members -- Matthew Humphreys as Joseph Surface, Lawrence Arancio as Sir Peter, Lael Logan as Lady Teazle, Wilbur Edwin Henry as Sir Oliver, and Joshua Bevans as Charles Surface-were quite engaging. Logan's characterization was a bit flighty at times, but Arancio's performance counterbalanced her. Henry as Sir Oliver wasthe most delightful performance of the play; his tongue-in-cheek pomposity fit Sheridan's style perfectly. The set, cleverly designed by Carrie Mossman, was nonetheless too widely spaced for the intimacy of play-small drawing-room conversations roamed over the whole stage.

Director Henry Wishcamper could have done a better job reigning in the actors' exaggerations; many of them had a tendency to lay it on thick. Sarah Rizza's costumes were bright but ill-fitting, and many of the actors seemed uncomfortable in them. However, the cast as a whole was energetic; more importantly, everyone seemed comfortable with the language.

While period pieces might not be their forte, The Gallery Players have a reputation for solid, satisfying productions. The School for Scandal was no exception.

Also with Brooke Delaney, Peter Russo, Sofia Antelo, Alexis Hyatt, Susan Pellegrino, James Glenn, Marcos Sanchez, and Christopher Keogh.

Box Score:

Writing: 2
Directing: 1
Acting: 2
Set: 1
Costumes: 1
Lighting/Sound: 1

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Copyright 2005 Jenny Sandman