by Deborah Martin | mysanantonio.com
Take a gander at the names of the characters listed in the program for Classic Theatre's "School for Scandal" -- Lady Sneerwell, Mr. Joseph Surface, Sir Benjamin Backbite -- and you'll have a pretty good idea of what unfolds.
Richard Brinsley Sheridan's 1777 comedy of manners is set among a group of mostly wealthy people for who trade bits of gossip as if it were currency -- people who, as one character puts it, "murder character to kill time."
There is much going on in their social set that merits discussion and, on occasion, manipulation, much of it led by Lady Sneerwell (played with relish by Christi Eanes).
There is the recent late-in-life first marriage of Sir Peter (John O'Neill ), who chose to marry a simple girl from the country (Samantha Robison) then is irked when she devotes her energy to transforming herself into a catty, fashionable young woman. There also is the reputation of Charles Surface (Michael Holley) to destroy so that Maria (Bekka Broyles), the young heiress he's fallen for and who also fancies him, will instead turn her attentions to his brother, the scheming Sir Joseph Surface (the pitch-perfect Zach Lewis).
And then there is word that the Surface brothers' uncle Oliver (Joe De Mott), who has been away for years, is returning. What they don't know is that Oliver is coming home to determine which brother is deserving of his estate. To figure it out, he takes on alternate identities to try to discover their true nature, an eye-opening exercise.
Director Diane Malone opted for a contemporary setting for the show, with texts and cell phone calls taking the place of calling cards. Another fun touch comes in her approach to a scene in which Charles sells a collection of family portraits to Oliver, whom he believes to be someone else. Actors hold empty blue picture frames in front of audience members as Holley and DeMott haggle over price. It's another zap of hilarity in a show that's rife with them.
Every member of the cast is in top form, the gossips delivering their tales with just the right nasty slap. Eanes gives Lady Sneerwell an imperious bearing that is just right, and she and Lewis, as her confidante and co-conspirator, are terrific together. Alexa McLatcher plays her associate Mrs. Candour with a voraciousness and larger-than-life energy that's great fun. A sequence in which Crabtree (Richard Solis) and his nephew Sir Benjamin Backbite (Steven Starr) one-up one another with bits of information is laugh-'til-you-gasp funny. And the scenes between O'Neill and Robison are wonderful, too.
The costumes, created by Jodi Karjala and Terri Pena Ross, are spot-on. The women' ensembles are particularly striking. And Christine King's set is well-designed.
The show is an absolute delight. Don't miss it.
"School for Scandal" can be seen at 8 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays and 3 p.m. Sundays through Nov. 27 at Classic Theatre, 1924 Fredericksburg Road. Tickets range from $10 to $25 at classictheatre.org or by calling 210-589-8450.