Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Entertaining Mr. Sloane"

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note: entire contents copyright 2000 by Chuck Galle

"Entertaining Mr. Sloane"

Reviewed by Chuck Galle

One night a friend said to me over dinner, as we talked theater and other arts "I just love hanging around with incredibly talented people." I was encouraged by this frank admission; after all, aren't we all enlivened by association with people we can stand in honest awe of? (If you think that sentence was easy you should try it.) And of course, if you hang around much in the arts you will hang around some with great talents. I got to hang around some with Ed Langlois last year when I appeared in one of his productions. He is an amazing talent. Founder of a couple of theatres in southern New Hampshire over the past couple of decades and most recently starting from street corner scratch, Ed Langlois is one those people best described as a blistering genius. Last year he launched the Edwin Booth Theatre on lower Central Avenue in Dover NH. Nestled into a true storefront, formerly an antique shop, barely twenty feet wide and maybe fifty, sixty feet deep, a less unlikely theater is not easily imagined. Most of us would not walk into this "junquey" cracker box and see the home of Moliere, Tennessee Williams, Ryunoseke and most especially of a beloved hero, Edwin Booth. I don't know what funding Ed had, but it was hardly enough to even merit so grandiose a word as "funding". And he simply built theater there from scraps and rags and strips of plastic and a few lights and a couple of hunks of board. The "set" for the Moliere play consisted of six strips of black polyethylene hung from the ceiling and a gracious looking cast off sofa he may have picked off the street on the morning of trash pickup. In later shows he built a sort of curtain, which really drew open and closed, in the great illusion of theater - diaphanous netting which could be dyed according to the mood necessary for each particular show. Still the predominant lighting remains footlights, not at the lip of the stage, but surrounding the proscenium. Recently, the Vermont muralist "Drew" has adorned the audience wall with an original which bespeaks the dark and quirky goings on created on Edıs stage. Simply entering is an experience of theater, for Ed decorates his store-front store windows for each new show in some unsettling, deliberate sculpture which subtly reflects the more unsettling events within.

Ed chooses plays for their unsettling nature. He revels in the darkest side of human nature, finding there a humor that pulls us more closely into the reality of existence. It's as if Ed is saying to us: Life isn't pretty; It is beautiful, yes; But not pretty. Life on the stage of the Edwin Booth Theatre is meat and gristle and rind. It is malicious and conniving and selfish and survivalist and richly, wryly funny. It is unsettling because it is so G... D... real.

Theatre goers in southern New Hampshire should rejoice at the opening ofthe second season of the Edwin Booth, and they should do so by seeing the opening show, a side splitting British comedy by Joe Orton called "Entertaining Mr. Sloane"." First of all, fitting an English parlor, the hallway with an abutting stairwell, an adjoining hallway, a doorway into the kitchen and a front doorway all into the space I already described and still leaving room for the fifty or so patrons is in itself a remarkable feat. A fat old sofa, a ratty rug, an arm chair, a fireplace(!) and a dry sink that fills as anybody's junk drawer complete the picture. Ornamenting the mantle are a gothic kind of vase and a little porcelain "objet d'rt" This joint is shortly peopled by an assortment of unprincipled, sexually predatory, hypocritical slime bags of the veddy veddy first order. Mr. Sloane, played up brown by Chris Curtis, has been given the perfect stance by Director Langlois; arms akimbo, legs apart, groin thrust forward like a Great Ape in heat. His gum smacking, lip sneering, sly eyeing demeanor paint him immediately for the opportunist he is. This is one of those characters you just love to distrust, because it is so personally gratifying to do so - heıll never let you down if you just expect the very worst from him. Sidling up to him like a rhinoceros in heat is Kath, the landlady, whose "ady-ness" is laid aside for what ever lays ahead. Sheıs as subtle as a lap dancer and, as played by Jewel Davis, as enticing as a kind old whore - all comfort and understanding, but underneath it all it costs a buck or two to play. The interplay of seducer/seducee so flips between these two the one thing we are sure of is that they deserve each other. What we expect to happen does, and right there before our eyes and Godıs and everybody' and so you better watch out! But this ainıt dirty! This is good clean dirty fun. You won' be offended by this scene - youıll be too busy laughing. Davis pushes the scene right to the edge of the envelope just before the lights, giving us a fresher view of Curtis than we had anticipated.

Alan Huisman plays the brother of the needy Kath, a prosperous appearing fellow, a "well"in his own mind but there is about him the sense of the fast buck, the importunate climber, the slightly shady jerk who doesn' think principles guide some men, but does think giving lip service to the concept works. His banter with Sloane concerning Sloaneıs early days in an orphanage living with older boys and doing athletics with them is an erotic flood of double entendre that keeps us stunned and titillated at once, all prickle eared to catch the next nuance and be a little mortified by it. Huisman gives us a fine blend of psuedo-gentlemanly stuffiness and the wicked smiling lecher. (He does need some practice manipulating his cigarettes into his cigarette holder - or perhaps there is some intended Freudianism afoot.)

The foil to these three charmers is Dada, not the art form but the father, who is referred to in the program as Kemp, but we only ever hear him referred to by familials from Ed and Kath. It is Kath who calls him Dada, harkening to her "other/lover"relationship with Sloane, which blossoms into full blown catastrophe. Also, it seems that somewhere in the past there has been a murder and it slowly seeps into this plot like smoke spilling unnoticed from a fireplace with a cramped flue through this characterıs lines. Marvelously performed by DeWitt Hardy, this old man is slyer than his brats imagine, feigning deafness and poor eyesight when it suits him, but quite able to converse when he wants. When his lines are less important than his manner Hardy sometimes talks around his tongue unintelligibly so close to real words we almost fall into the parlor to catch his meaning. His ability to withstand Kathıs shouting into his ear without a trace of recognition is fantastic. I mean, he is an actor, and we expect him to do his job, but it is still remarkable to see.

Edward Langlois is the designer of the costumery of this show, as he is I believe it safe to say, of all his shows. This stuff is wonderful, from the shirt fronted cheapo-Italianate double breasted suit we meet Sloane in to the G-string, peekaboo bra and Baby doll negligee of the seduction scene, to the crunched fedora and printed herringbone tweed patterned sharkskin slacks of poor old Kemp.

Theater is alive and well in Dover, New Hampshire, thanks to Edward Langlois and I strongly recommend that even if you have to drive a few miles to get there that if you enjoy good theater and wish to experience incredible talent you make the trip. Fine cast, talented director, exellent Theater.

Entertaining Mr. Sloane is performed Thursday through Saturday at 8:00 PM and Sunday at 7:00PM now through October 22 at the Edwin Booth Theatre, 286 Central Avenue, Dover NH ( Near City Hall) For reservations and information call 603-750-3243 or see the website at

"Entertaining Mr. Sloane" (till 22 October)
286 Central Avenue, DOVER, NEW HAMPSHIRE

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide