School for Scandal

There’s been some scandalous types hanging around Whidbey Island Center for the Arts. They are superficial, money-hungry, sex-crazed, backstabbing, overindulged and careless with their words towards others. They are eager to take you to school and teach you their ways.

The cast of “The School for Scandal,” opening Friday at WICA has been enjoying their roles in this comedy of manners where no one has them.

Written by Sheridan, a one-time member of Parliament and long time proponent of pointing out society’s faults, the production is WICA’s most ambitious to date — period, period, period.

Directed by acclaimed director and screenwriter Lewis John Carlino, “School for Scandal” opens doors to the lives of the upper crust of 1770s England. It has continued to make people laugh for the last 200 years where screens falling and family portrait auctions have become famous in this hilarious romp through the frivolous period.

It’s a unique look from a comedic genius who, as Carlino points out, was known to have walked across the street, ordered a glass of wine and sat in a bar sipping slowly while his famed Drury Lane Theater burned to the ground.

The 18th century sets, costumes and wigs have all been designed and gathered by Oak Harbor resident Sherri Brady, whose work was last seen on stage in the costuming of “Picasso at the Lapin Agile.” Brady has been working professional stage productions for the last 10 years after graduating from the University of Oklahoma with a degree in fine arts costume and scene design.

“Scandal” has been a challenge in the sheer number of cast members the designer must costume — 23 plus servants and an orchestra of Saratoga Chamber Players.

“Eighteenth century is not an easy piece to gather costumes for and then to gather for such a large number of people hasn’t been easy,” Brady said.

The cast list isn’t the only thing inflated on the stage.

“The period calls for bigger hair, bigger costumes — you weren’t somebody back then unless you took up a lot of space,” she said. “It’s been great because I’ve been able to take things a little over the top in extravagance.”

The set construction has been duplicated down to the “T” how it would have been seen at Sheridan’s Drury Lane Theater in 1770s London. For months a crew of dozens have taken shifts working on the colorful backdrop flats. The stage crew will have their hands full on show nights with six different sets and 11 scene changes. The opulence required by the period of the show has been a challenge, and the director is thankful to the countless crew and volunteers.

“Seeing what resources of talent are here makes you want to challenge yourself and bring ideas that are big,” Carlino said. “I knew in my heart there is the talent and resources here to do this.”

But don’t be afraid of the period piece — you’ll be able to relate if you comb through the pomp and circumstance. Times haven’t changed, cast members say.

“We still live in a time of scandal marketing now,” said cast member David Ossman.

The themes of society remain the same. Do women stay at home or not? What jobs should men have? Are the sexes equal?

“As long as we’re on this planet we’re always going to have some of the same problems,” says cast member Deana Duncan.

In this play, be wary of any relationships that are formed.

“Things aren’t as they seem,” said Brian Plebanek. “People who are are dressed a certain way and appear as good are sometimes really evil.”

Sheridan’s writing even challenges Shakespeare’s writing in its ability to keep actors with sharp tongues and on their toes.

“It shows human foibles at their highest zenith using language as an art form,” Hartle said.

Throughout, supporting characters are quite colorful. Even seemingly good guys, such as Mr. Premium the money lender (Brian Plebanek) are torn on their honor. The only way Premium can get back money loans one character is to help another in the play’s scandal.

The cast of scandal also includes Shelley Hartle as a woman she calls a “predator”; Bristol Branson as a well-bred woman raised in a loving family; David Ossman as Sir Peter Teazle, a wealthy and older English lord married to a younger woman, played by Duncan; and Tom Harris.

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