The Rapidian

Rumour has it (and learns from it) in Pigeon Creek Shakespeare's "School for Scandal"

The Pigeon Creek Shakespeare Company presents Richard Sheridan’s “School for Scandal” at the Dog Story Theater (7 Jefferson SE in Grand Rapids) June 24 and 25 at 8 p.m. and June 26 at 3 p.m.

School for Scandal

The Pigeon Creek Shakespeare Company presents Richard Sheridan’s “School for Scandal” at the Dog Story Theater (7 Jefferson SE in Grand Rapids) June 24 and 25 at 8pm, and June 26 at 3pm.  Tickets are $14 for Adults and $7 for Students and Seniors www.dogstorytheater.com for tickets and info.

Lady Sneerwell is infatuated with the young, libertine Charles Surface. Surface has squandered away his father's fortune. His brother, Joseph, is not much better in that he wants to marry the young ward, Maria, for her own fortunes. However, Maria's keeper, Sir Peter Teazle has his own set of money troubles as his new and incredibly younger wife, Lady Teazle seems to only want to spend his money and argue (probably because of her growing lust for Joseph and his fanciful city ways.) More drama than a modern soap opera, and we haven't even begun to talk about the impish servants, the biting power gossips around town, and the fact that someone is coming home to town that could potentially bring down the machinations of both the Surface brothers. This, audiences, is the bedrock for a hilarious roller-coaster of lies, gossips, hiding spots and mistaken identities.

The playwright, Richard Brinsley Sheridan, was born about one hundred years after the death of William Shakespeare. At first glance, audiences might be wondering why a Shakespeare company is producing non-Shakespearean works. Pigeon Creek, as a theater company, has a strong philosophical foundation in what are called the “Original Practices.” The idea, a somewhat recent movement in Shakespearean performance, is based on evidence and deductions gathered from records, ledgers, and socioeconomic factors from Shakespeare's time. The movement purports that those deductions reflect the closest we can get to how theater was produced in the Renaissance, thereby creating the purest performance of the bard's works. The movement also extends that such methods can be applied to contemporaries and beyond of Shakespeare, possibly even to modern plays that are written today.

School for Scandal is considered a “Comedy of Manners”, a specific satire form with points out the comic flaws and vices of a specific class of citizen. Audiences may be familiar with other such comedies as "The Importance of Being Earnest," by Oscar Wilde, or Tartuffe by Moliere. Even in today's world, we see aspects of such comedy in such television shows as 'Downton Abbey' or 'Absolutely Fabulous.' Viewers of those shows can automatically see what makes a good “Comedy of Manners.” There needs to be strongly, almost cartoonish characters, spitting quickfire quips and puns at one another, along with a fair share of physical comedy and wit.

The Pigeon Creek performers completely hit that mark with their production. The audience was, from almost the very start, thrown into a finely controlled tornado of lies, gossip, rumour, revelations, confusions, mistaken identities, betrays and ripe comeuppances. Each actor so gracefully danced their words with their scene partners, hitting each punchline and retort seamlessly as the action never stopped.

Most notably, Pigeon Creek Shakespeare Company's Repertory member, Scott Lange as Joseph Surface. His characterization was indulgent and witty as bounced back and forth between different lovers and the men that he was wooing them from. It was that indulgence, a lushness of speech, that really helped the audience to attune their ear to Sheridan's words right from his first entrance. Accompanied with a driving energy and stamina to be able to juggle flawlessly various scene partners and their foibles, Lange never seemed to even need a catch breath (unless the character called for it in the scene, of course.)

Acting with the same amount of drive and passion was Bridget McCarthy as Mrs. Candour and doubling as Moses, the moneylender. The brilliance in McCarthy's work was the comic extent to which her characterizations reached and her physical connection to the language. Mrs. Candour, the town's leading gossip, almost floated on stage, singing operatically her lines at times as her character ridiculously contributed to the scandals that ran about town. At the other side of the spectrum, but with the same aplomb and comic timing as Candour, McCarthy's character of Moses the moneylender was creepy, snake-like, and seemed to carry around the audience's disgust for the high falutin' members of the society around her.

The production as a whole, however could have benefited with more of a balance between extreme cartoon characters and the subtler nobility. With too much of the latter, even in the characters of lesser noble ranks, some scenes tended to be treated as more pushing the story along instead of whimsically volleying between the clowns. There is nothing funnier than a comic foible and his straight man, and this reviewer would propose to some of that actors that they raise the stakes of their characterizations to provide that light/dark contrast between the roles.

One thing of importance to note is that this production was directed by the ensemble of actors. This is actually a part of the “Original Practices” movement where some pieces would not have directors, but instead rely on the talent and experience of the actors themselves to present movement and character choices in the rehearsal process. The members of Pigeon Creek deftly performed their piece, to the point where one could swear that there had been a director puppeteering from the get-go, but the program assured us that this was not the case. All the more power then to these actors for creating a hilarious piece of work with their own sweat and blood as the process.

 

REVIEWERS FINAL WORD

The point of the play, as the title suggests, is not to show us an actual educational establishment for the art of scandal, but rather to show how gossips and slanderers can get their comeuppance best with a taste of their own medicine. In that, here is a story that can easily translate to today's world, showing that even 300 years later, there are still some ranks of society or people that attempt to ruin others with their lies and slander. As a student of theater history, I am always thrilled to come along a piece that still holds true its message (and the necessity for that message) years, decades, and centuries later.

COMPANY DETAILS

Founded in 1998, the Grand Haven based Pigeon Creek Shakespeare Company is Michigan’s only year-round, touring, professional Shakespeare company. The company was started by Chicago area actor and director Frank Farrell, who appeared several times as guest artist with the Grand Valley Shakespeare Festival, and a group of West Michigan actors, including current executive director Katherine Mayberry. From 1998-2007, Pigeon Creek produced plays outdoors in the Ottawa County Parks during the summer months. In 2008, the company expanded to performing throughout the year, and currently produces 4 mainstage plays per season, as well as numerous staged readings, performances of Shakespearean scenes, and educational programs. Pigeon Creek’s production features live music, character doubling, and audience interaction in the company’s usual lively performance atmosphere.

This production of “School for Scandal” is an “ensemble-directed” show of the cast: Scott Wright, Sarah Stark, Kat Hermes, Michael Dodge, Scott Lange, Chaz Albright, Kate Tubbs, Anessa Johnson, Bridget McCarthy, Stephen Douglas Wright, Eric Olive, and Christa Wright.

For further information about Pigeon Creek’s season of plays, visit the company’s website at www.pcshakespeare.com.

The Rapidian, a program of the 501(c)3 nonprofit Community Media Center, relies on the community’s support to help cover the cost of training reporters and publishing content.

We need your help.

If each of our readers and content creators who values this community platform help support its creation and maintenance, The Rapidian can continue to educate and facilitate a conversation around issues for years to come.

Please support The Rapidian and make a contribution today.

Comments, like all content, are held to The Rapidian standards of civility and open identity as outlined in our Terms of Use and Values Statement. We reserve the right to remove any content that does not hold to these standards.

Browse