Minneapolis' Guthrie Theatre's Regional Interpretation of a Classic
Sheridan's SCHOOL FOR SCANDAL is to Restoration Comedy what DIE FLEDERMAUS is to Operetta - the absolute nonpareil; but that has lead to a plethora of interpretations of all too widely varying quality. This 1975 production from Minneapolis' Guthrie Theatre (aired on PBS' Theatre In America series on 2 April 1975) is probably the most easily accessible color production available on DVD, but it is very much a regional theatre effort with lavish costumes which unfortunately LOOK like costumes rather than CLOTHES (the necessary period wigs and hats MUST have been intended as parodies!) and acting which, while entirely acceptable and true to a relatively uncut version of the original text (in the spirit of 1975 television, someone has added the front part of an unnecessary framing device highlighting the return to England of the Surface brothers' long absent Uncle Oliver - which will play so central a role in the middle of the play), is sadly wanting any directorial subtlety.
The one national "name" in the cast, Blair Brown, carries off her role with supremely confident aplomb, but lacking a strong director's reign, misses the innocence which should make her near seduction by Charles Surface credible.
This Broadway Theatre Archive release on Kultur (D2635) remains an entirely acceptable exposure to the great play - but the sub-Broadway calibre production and delivery opens the classic to the unfounded perception that the classic plot and dialogue are somehow "dated"! For anyone who wants to see how classic restoration comedy SHOULD be done and still ring true as classic (current, believable) THEATRE, should seek out the heavily edited (100 min.) black and white 1959 BBC production (released on DVD by Video Yesteryear) with Felix Aymler and a very young Joan Plowright or the great London and Broadway revival preserved in 1963 on LP with John Gielgud and Ralph Richardson!
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