Danville's Role Players Ensemble Theatre is performing "The School for Scandal," a comedy of manners portraying high-society London socialites whose lives revolve around rumors, gossip and scandal.
The classic play was written and originally set in the 18th century, but Role Players Director Sue Trigg decided to set this one in the 1930s.
"I think the style works very well. It's very pretty," she says with dramatic flair.
And it's true. The actors' elegant costumes and pompous English accents instantly transport you into their chic culture.
The show holds nothing back. Ripe with unabashed sexual insinuation and tongue-in-cheek wit, it relentlessly pokes fun at the members of this London society.
Sporting obvious names like "Teazel, "Sneerwell" and "Candour," the characters are totally lovable despite - or maybe because of - their dubious sense of morality. You can't help but be sucked into their playful and decadent lifestyle.
"I cannot deny the pleasure I get from spreading slander," Lady Sneerwell proclaims in the first scene, dragging from her long cigarette. "I have known no pleasure equal to reducing others to the level of my own reputation."
The plot makes the ride even more fun. It's full of love triangles, scandalous affairs and irresistible deceit. And the talented cast provokes laugh-out-loud moments more than a few times.
Act IV, Scene III: Mr. Joseph Surface is on the couch with Lady Teazel, with whom he is having an affair, when her husband comes to the house to tell Joseph he suspects his wife is cheating on him - with Joseph's brother. Lady Teazel quickly hides behind a screen, overhearing the whole conversation.
At that moment the accused brother comes to the house and the distraught husband, hoping to discover the truth, jumps into a trunk on the other side of the room. Now both husband and wife are hidden, eavesdropping in secret.
This scene barely scrapes the surface of the show's convoluted story, which forces you to think twice about the meaning of vice and virtue.
"At a time when we seem to have rediscovered our guilty love of gossip and scandal, Sheridan's play is surprisingly relevant," says Trigg.
Written in 1777, the show is the most famous work of playwright Richard Brinsley Sheridan. It was a huge success upon its debut for its ability to simultaneously mock and entertain its audience.
The theme is indeed timeless. In today's age of tabloids and paparazzi, scandal still sells.
"Plays like this remind us that great plays, performed live, offer views of ourselves that enlighten us as they entertain us," says Role Players board president Pat Kenber.
Which is why it's worth shelving that book, turning off the television, and heading down to the theater. Be it entertainment or enlightenment you're after, you're likely to find it in "The School for Scandal."
Cast members are Jill and Kate Davidson as "Careless" and "Lady Teazle," John Blytt as "Sir Peter Teazle," Chris Chapman as "Sir Oliver Surface," Candy Campbell as "Crabtree," Melynda Kiring as "Mrs. Candour," Sharon Huff as "Lady Sneerwell," Paul Plain as "Snake/Sir Benjamin Backbite," Michael Sally as "Joseph Surface," Xanadu Bruggers as "Maria," Craig Eychner as "Charles Surface," Elias D. Protopsaltis as "Moses," Michael Green as "Rowley," and Joel Stefani as the servant.
Tickets are available at www.villagetheatreshows.com, the Danville Community Center, 420 Front St. in Danville or by calling 314-3400 or 314-3463. The show will run until May 10.
High society frolic
What: 'The School for Scandal'
Who: Role Players Ensemble Theatre
Where: Village Theatre, 233 Front St. in Danville
When: 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday; April 18-May 10
Tickets: $22-25, $15 for students and groups, at www.villagetheatreshows.com or call 314-3463
More Info: www.danvilletheatre.com or call 820-1278