Spending three hours in a black box listening to 200-year-old gossip can be a daunting task, but not with New Heritage's performance of The School for Scandal under Pamela Sterling's guest direction. Sterling twists Richard Brinsley Sheridan's age-old comedy into Boise, here and now, with cell phones and Internet included. Upon entering the theater, the audience realizes their role in the gossip--they can't escape it--they're curtained in, distant relatives.
The School for Scandal originates with Lady Sneerwell (Aimee Nell Smith), whose tastefully chosen wardrobe of lingerie and evening gowns makes even the most fashionable of women feel a bit underdressed. She plots with Snake, played by Jeremy Chase, a tongue-flicking, finger-rattling man. He reveals his cold-blooded amphibian ancestry in minutia without over-spilling his venom. Together, these two begin the contagious rumors that carry the rest of the play. They set Sir Peter Teazle (James Fisk) and his wife, Lady Teazle (Jamie Farmer Ebersole), against each other. His temper and her sass reveal married life hasn't improved since 1777; using humor to examine relationship dilemmas and idiosyncrasies makes for a fun night of theater-going, yet serious connotations provide valuable reminders of how people sometimes treat their loved ones. Two brothers, Joseph and Charles Surface, played by Fred Scott and Luke Massengill, complicate the previous couple's life thoroughly while waiting for the return of their affluent uncle, Sir Oliver (Dene Oneida), from the East Indies.
Approximately half of the cast is made up of resident company members who deliver as always, but the additional cast members are equally as scandalous as the veterans and some even steal the moment. Two traditionally male roles, Rowley and Crabtree, are played quite fittingly by women actors Judith Kriner and Terry Allen. All in all, it's a harmonious crew.
The cast delivers the play in its original 18th century lingo, with two exceptions. The first is changing "inflation" to "money" an agreeable transition, and the second is giving Sir Oliver Irish and Italian accents, which are unwelcome, only because they distract from Oneida's fluent theater voice. It's not that he cannot manifest the sleazy Italian broker persona, he can, but his original voice is so handsome and refined, why alter it even for the purpose of enriching the play. It's too much vermouth in the gin.
The stage and costumes are set in black and white tastefully illuminating the modern age while depicting, "Either you get it or you don't. Between doesn't exist." A few color exceptions exist--a piece of clothing, a prop--all with subtle analogies supporting them and up for audience interpretation.
Scandal has outlived its era, and New Heritage Theatre Company tactfully reminds its viewers that they are still gossiping fools, their situations only worsened with advancements in technology. Easier communication only makes for speedier slander and the destruction it yields. Upon leaving the show, most likely the tradition will be carried on without notice as the audience makes moot Sheridan's message.
Aug. 2-6. 7 p.m.Wed.-Sat., 2 p.m. Sun. matinee. $25 general, $15 seniors and students, pay-what-you-can shows Aug. 3 and 6. Mountain View Auditorium, 2000 S. Millennium, Meridian. For tickets visit www.ticketweb.com. For information or group rates, call 381-0958.