Richard Brinsley Sheridan's
THE SCHOOL FOR SCANDAL
June 29, 2015, 7:30 pm
Cherry Lane Theatre, 38 Commerce Street
featuring Charles Busch and Everett Quinton
with Bill Army, Helen Cespedes, Christian DeMarais, Richard Easton, Peter Eyre, Kevin Isola, Rick Holmes, Greg Jackson, Roberta Maxwell, Amelia Pedlow, Gayle Rankin, Paxton Whitehead, and more
Directed by Marc Vietor
Musical Direction by Bryan Trenis
"The heart that is conscious of its own integrity is ever slow to credit another´s treachery."
What’s wrong with a little rumor? This ultimate comedy of manners, satirizing the hypocrisy of fashionable society, will be presented with ridiculous gender-bending panache.
Into the scandal-mongering world of Lady Sneerwell, and her duplicitous minions Sir Benjamin Backbite and the unctuous Mr Snake, Sheridan weaves an affecting romance between a moral young woman and a spendthrift young man on the point of bankruptcy. In an age where reputations are won and lost at the click of an iPhone, this 18th Century tale of manipulation, gossip and slander will feel outrageously familiar.
The OBIE Award-Winning Revelation Readings series provides a unique opportunity to hear new and rarely-produced classic plays performed by many of the finest actors in New York.
This reading is sponsored by the Mike and Janet Slosberg Family Foundation Trust.
ABOUT the PLAYWRIGHT
Richard Brinsley Sheridan (1751-1816) was a dramatist, a theatre manager, and a politician. He was the son of an actor and of an authoress - his mother wrote both plays and novels. He was born in Dublin, educated at Harrow, and entered as a law student.
Sheridan's first play, THE RIVALS, was produced at Covent Garden and was followed quickly by a farce and a comic opera. In 1776 Sheridan bought Garrick's share in Drury Lane and rebuilt the theatre in 1794. He remained there until its destruction by fire in 1809, always in financial difficulties. His later plays, all produced at Drury Lane, included A TRIP TO SCARBOROUGH (altered from Vanbrugh's THE RELAPSE), THE CRITIC, many burlesques stemming from Buckingham's THE REHEARSAL, and his most famous play SCHOOL FOR SCANDAL. Increasingly, Sheridan moved from theatre work to the world of politics. He became a member of Parliament in 1780 and rose rapidly in his new profession. His management of Drury Lane was marked by a succession of quarrels with his co-partners; he failed to retain the monopoly he was striving for. His last years were unhappy, and he never recovered from the destruction of Drury Lane, though he endeavored to bear the blow with equanimity. He was buried in Westminster Abbey.
ABOUT the PLAY
THE SCHOOL FOR SCANDAL is famous throughout English literature for several reasons. Firstly, the play has all of the wit but none of the licentiousness of the Restoration comedy, from which it derives. It is as if Sheridan (and Goldsmith at this time) were developing what came to be known as "sentimental' comedy. Secondly, it is the only play to raise the idea of scandal to an art form.
Just such an attitude toward scandal Sheridan gives us in the opening scene, with Lady Sneerwell and Snake hard at work on creating scandals, followed soon by Joseph Surface's entrance, with his duplicitous agenda.
And yet, this scandalous behavior is not really the center of the play. The play's structure rests on Sheridan's contrast of the two brothers - Joseph Surface, the sanctimonious hypocrite and Charles, the good-natured reckless spendthrift. Charles is in love with Maria, the ward of Sir Peter Teazle, and his love is returned. Joseph is courting the same girl for her fortune, while at the same time dallying with Lady
Sir Peter, an old man who has married his young wife six months previously, is made wretched by her frivolity and the fashionable society she inhabits - all the scandal-mongers. As such, Sir Peter works as a kind of sub-plot.
The main force in the plot is the character of Sir Oliver Surface, the rich uncle of Joseph and Charles, who returns unexpectedly from India, and decides to test the characters of his nephews before revealing his identiity. He visits Charles in the guise of a money-lender, Mr. Premium, and Charles cheerfully sells him the family portraits - but refuses to sell the portrait of Sir Oliver himself and thus unwittingly wins the old man's heart.
Meanwhile, Joseph receives a visit from Lady Teazle and attempts to seduce her. The sudden arrival of Sir Peter obliges Lady Teazle to hide behind a screen. The arrival of Charles sends Sir Peter in turn to hide. When Charles flings down the screen, he reveals Lady Teazle (This "screen scene" is always the actors' great delight.) Sir Oliver then enters disguised in the character of a needy relative. Joseph refuses help, giving as his reason the avarice of his uncle Sir Oliver, thus revealing his true character.
This beloved play has been revived much over the years. A particularly lavish production was seen in 1969 with John Gielgud as Joseph, Geraldine McEwan as Lady Teazle, and Ralph Richardson as a wonderfully befuddled Sir Peter.