REVIEW: There’s Nothing Fake About How Funny You’ll Find ‘The School for Scandal’

Fakes news. Slanderous accusations. Alternative facts. Playwright Richard Brinsley Sheridan originally wrote The School for Scandal in the 18th century about pretentious London society. However, its tenets still ring true today in our tech-saturated 21st century as the Oakland University School of Music, Theatre and Dance’s latest production proves.

Director David Gram deftly guides his actors through the quirks and intricacies of this biting comedy, which blends together the specific time period with more modern-day touches. For example, pay close attention to the costumes (h/t to Leslie Littell) and you may just spy a familiar bird logo with ties to social media. As for the set (kudos to OU student Christopher Winter), it begins the moment you enter the theatre doors and is cleverly designed to resemble a hallway; complete with pictures, lights, and a framed print defining what ‘scandal’ means. There is also a large QR code, which I was told led back to the Facebook page for the show. While a cool idea, unfortunately the university’s network prevented me from gaining access. Another fun element of the show is the use of modern music such as The Go-Go’s “Our Lips Are Sealed” and instrumental versions of “Bad Romance” by Lady Gaga and I believe “Shut Up and Dance” by WALK THE MOON. It was fun listening to see if I could identify what was being played and a smart way to keep the audience engaged during scene change-overs. Sound designer Kyle Goetzinger (another OU student) is to be applauded for his efforts.

‘The School for Scandal’ cast.
Photo courtesy of Jlboone Photography and the Oakland University School of Music, Dance and Theatre Facebook page

As for the story, The School for Scandal essentially consists of two plots. On one hand, you have Dame Olivia Surface’s (Krissy Castellese) covert attempt to uncover (with the help of Moses (Jordan Taylor) and Rowley (Ian Krueger) which of her nephews – Charles (Alex Benoit) or Joseph (Mark Ujkstivani) is the worthy recipient of her fortune. The two brothers couldn’t be more different. Charles is skittish and silly, but at his core sincere about his affection for his aunt and his intentions toward Maria (Sara Gunn). Joseph does his best to come across respectable, but in reality, he’s smarmy, sneaky, and above all solely concerned with self-preservation. Working behind the scenes is Lady Sneerwell (Lucy Price), a wealthy widow and self-proclaimed head mistress of the School for Scandal who has her designs on making Charles hers, while discrediting the naive Lady Teazle (Mannon McIntosh) and humiliating Sir Peter Teazle (Michael Lison) in the process. Clues to the character’s personalities lie squarely in their names: Sir Benjamin Backbite (Aaron Sargeant), Mrs. Candour (hilariously embodied by Andrew Barikmo), and Aunt Crabtree (Alexis Clark). And one character you’ll want to keep an eye on (literally) is Snake played with a commanding presence by Katie Person. Act One is sort of a slow burn—smartly laying the deceitful traps that will ensnare the misguided participants, while Act Two brings it all together for a satisfying conclusion thanks in large part to the well-known ‘screen scene’ that masterfully converges the two plots.

This production comes with a healthy dose of audience interaction. And the fact that it’s performed in the round adds to the intimacy factor. It is obvious the cast is having a blast, so why not join in on the fun? If the opportunity presents itself, ham it up and enjoy your 15-seconds of fame. But if you have personal space issues, no sense of humor, or are the type that believe everything posted on Facebook is true, well, you may want to stay at home. Because as with most satirical comedies, The School for Scandal ultimately reveals the true character of all involved and given our current climate, it offers a timely and much-needed ego check into our culture as well. And that’s the truth.

The play runs approximately two and half hours with a 10-minute intermission. Get caught up in all the scandalous fun at one of these remaining performances:

Saturday, February 3, 2018 at 8 p.m.
Sunday, February 4, 2018 at 2 p.m.
Thursday, February 8, 2018 at 8 p.m.
Friday, February 9, 2018 at 10 a.m. and 8 p.m.
Saturday, February 10, 2018 at 8 p.m.
Sunday, February 11, 2018 at 2 p.m.

Tickets can be purchased at the Varner Box Office, by phone at (800) 585-3737, or at StarTickets.com with no service fee. $15 for general and $8 for students at 10 a.m. matinee. There are an estimated 20 seats labeled ‘obstructive view,’ so arrive in plenty of time for best pick.

About Sarah Hovis

Word manipulator, arts appreciator, sports spectator, and world traveler, Sarah charts her own course as the owner of saliho creative. She uses her creative mind and engaging dialogue to fearlessly bring the written word to life in print and online… all while keeping a watchful eye out for the next literary adventure. You can reach her at [email protected].

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