T. James Belich
10/12/10

"A School for Scandal" at Chameleon Theatre Circle

This past weekend I went down to Burnsville for my first visit to Chameleon Theatre Circle and their production of the Restoration classic A School for Scandal by Richard Sheridan. Having never seen this play before I was eager to rectify that gap in my theatrical experience, expecting a solid production from an established company. Unfortunately the performance sputtered from the start. First, it was never quite certain to which time period it belonged. Period music played during preshow, suddenly turning to what sounded like heavy metal for the initial blackout. The actors wore contemporary costumes which felt a little ad hoc and, to my mind, didn't quite fit with the minimalist set (in my opinion it would have worked better with period costumes). The modern-day setting also clashed a little with period phrases such as "Zounds!" and "'Lud!" which most of the actors seemed unsure what to do with. However, all of this was overshadowed by the overall weakness of the acting itself. There were few performances that rose above average, the most notable exception being Megan Hadley's portrayal of Lady Teazel who nicely captured her character's transition from frivolous gossip-monger to something deeper and her reconnection with her husband was touching as a result. Emma Palmer did a decent job as Maria, despite being given little blocking when she wasn't speaking, and Franklin Heller was a cheerful presence as the money lender Mr. Visa. Beyond that the performances ranged from over-acting to simply uninteresting, although in a few cases it was clear that these were otherwise competent performers who lacked direction. Certainly the show's overall lack of cohesiveness must be attributed in large part to the director. Lastly, the script suffered a little in its adaptation, as large sections of the plot seemed to have been skimmed over (Charles and Maria end up together in the end, even though we hardly see them together onstage). Sadly, this interpretation of this classic piece ultimately proved disappointing. 1 out of 5 stars.

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