note: entire contents copyright 2009 by Beverly Creasey
It’s a pity Joe Orton isn’t around today. (He was murdered in 1967.) He might be quite amused that his subversive, gloriously nasty plays have become part of the established theater scene both here and in Great Britain. The very same proper British society he aimed to scandalize now embraces him as one of the greats.
The Publick Theatre’s devilishly deranged production of ENTERTAINING MR. SLOANE (at the Boston Center for the Arts through April 3rd) has it both ways: as high farce and as morality tale. Director Eric Engel traverses the two worlds with perfect balance. “Oops,” says the randy landlady, hurling a pile of photographs to the floor burlesque-style, “You’ve dropped your pictures, Mr. Sloane,” maneuvering both of them to the floor for an appalling bit of slap and tickle.
Engel deftly rearranges the balance of power so that we sit up and take notice at play’s end that the “punishment [may very well] fit the crime,” as the Mikado would say. Jack Cutmore-Scott as the manipulative thug who plays both ends against the middle is a darkly charming Mr. Sloane. Sandra Shipley as the landlady plays the squeamish seductress role just short of slapstick. Both she and Mr. Sloane have a vulnerability which keeps the play “human” while everyone is acting inhumanely.
Nigel Gore is marvelously shady as the landlady’s opportunistic brother, ready to exploit any situation for gain. Dafydd Rees, too, as their grubby “Da” is wonderfully seedy. Everyone, in short, is hilariously awful. You would never, never want to meet any of these folks in the high street but on stage, they’re gangbusters!