Richard Brinsley Sheridan revival of School for Scandal by the Red Bull Theatre Company, is adorably a mockery of life in the 1777. This satirical comic masterpiece is witty and highly entertaining as we watch the dissection of a social network who’s jolly’s are to maliciously gossip and anonymous assassinate reputations.
After sixteen years abroad Oliver Surface (Henry Stram) returns home incognito to test the characters of his nephews, Charles (Christian DeMarais) who is supposably the black sheep and a drunkard and Joseph (Christian Conn) one of the worse rakes around. Upon his return he discovers his old friend Peter Teazle (Mark Linn-Baker) has wed a young country wife (the adorable Helen Cespedes) and is in marital purgatory as Lady Teazle has become aligned with the malicious gossips led by Lady Sneerwell (Frances Barber). Lady Sneerwell attempts through lies and forge letters written Snake (the droll Jacob Dresh), to break up the love affair between Charles Surface and Sir Peter’s ward, Maria (Nadine Malouf), hoping to get Charles for herself, despite the age difference.
Now gossip has linked Lady Teazle’s name with Charles, but in reality she has been indulging in an affair with Joseph. The rumors cause much distressed until it is all disclosed in a comedy of errors. Lady Teazle throws herself on Sir Peter’s mercy, Sir Oliver, learns the truth and all’s well that ends well.
In the meantime lessons in humiliation, spite, self-delusion, ambition, prejudice and everything else that goes on in today’s society, is laid plain and bare with names likeMrs. Candour (the remarkable Dana Ivey), Sir Benjamin Backbite and Mr. Careless (both Ryan Garbao), Mr. Crabtree and Mr. Midas (both played by Derek Smith), and Sir Toby Bumper (Bradley Gibson).
Dana Ivey delivers a monologue about gossips and people who always talk, as she unknowingly describes herself. Mark Linn-Baker, is perfect as the cuckolded Sir Peter Teazle. Frances Barber is the perfect mean girl 1777 style. Jacob Dresch as snake is perfectly smarmy and foppish and terribly funny, but it is Helen Cespedes, a John Houseman Award winner at the Juilliard School who steals the show, as did Patti LuPone when the role was performed with The Acting Company. The entire company deserves kudos minus Ms. Malouf who seems as if she is in a different production.
Directed with wit by Mark Vietor this frothy delight weaves it’s tale with deliciously delightful costumes by Andrea Lauer, with wigs that define a character by Charles LaPointe, ever versatile sets by Anna Louizos, and lighting that sets the perfect mood by Russell H. Champa.
This dizzying effervescent comedic delight will make 2 l/2 hours go by just like that!
The School for Scandal: Red Bull Theatre Company at The Lucille Lortel Theatre – 121 Christopher St. through May 8th.