Rutgers Theater Company presents Richard Brinsley Sheridan’s "The School for Scandal"

Late-18th century London was rolling in celebrity gossip muck long before TMZ or Perez Hilton. Get schooled in the art of catty conversation with Rutgers Theater Company’s production of Richard Brinsley Sheridan’s The School for Scandal, running from Friday, February 6, through Sunday, February 15, 2015*, at the Philip J. Levin Theater. The play is directed by David Esbjornson (shown at left), chair of the Theater Department and a Broadway director (Driving Miss Daisy and The Goat, Or Who Is Sylvia?), and presented through a “modern filter,” says Christopher Cartmill, assistant director of the play and a Mason Gross theater faculty member.

When it comes to hobbies, gossip queen Lady Sneerwell enjoys a quiet evening of ruining reputations, and in The School for Scandal, she has tasked herself with breaking up the relationship between Maria, a young heiress, and Charles Surface, whom she wants for herself. Betrayal is easy when you have friends with names like Snake and Backbite.

Richard Brinsley Sheridan’s comedic tale of bad behavior among the British upper crust is timeless because gossip and scandal never go out of style, Cartmill says.

“We live with it particularly in the age of Twitter and Instagram and celebrity culture, knowing what everybody’s up to,” says Cartmill. “What Sheridan was writing about is just as important now as it was then.”

With characters competing for love, deception through disguises, and rumors constantly flying, “Sheridan is showing how awful and dangerous—and funny—gossip can be,” Cartmill says.

Characters will don 18th-century clothing with a contemporary twist by costume designer and Mason Gross faculty member David Murin, whose work has appeared in a number of Broadway productions.

“It’s big. It’s flashy. It’s very beautiful clothes,” says Cartmill.

The School for Scandal continues to delight, says Cartmill, mostly because dirt-digging continues to delight.

“There’s not much difference between London of the 1770s and New Brunswick or New York now in the way in which we deal with one another,” Cartmill says. “That’s one of the things that’s so incredible about this play, and why it’s survived.”

The School for Scandal runs from Friday, February 6, through Sunday, February 15, 2015*, at the Philip J. Levin Theater. Performances are at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are $25 for the general public, $20 for Rutgers alumni and employees and seniors, and only $15 for students with valid ID.The Philip J. Levin Theater is in the Mason Gross Performing Arts Center, 85 George Street (between Route 18 and Ryders Lane), on the Douglass Campus of Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, in New Brunswick. For more information about any Mason Gross event, visit www.masongross.rutgers.edu or call the Mason Gross Performing Arts Center ticket office at 848-932-7511.

This event is underwritten by the Leora M. Sies Theater Fund Foundation.

*The 7:30 p.m. performances on Wednesday, February 11 and Thursday, February 12 are open to Theater Appreciation students only.

Posted January 2015