Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Entertaining Mr. Sloane"

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note: entire contents copyright 1996 by Larry Stark

"Entertaining Mr. Sloane"

by Joe Orton
Directed by Robert J. Bouffier

Set Design by Jeff Gardiner
Lighting Design by John Malinowski
Costume Design by Marguerite L. Scott
Stage Manager Michele Keith

Kath...........Paula Plum
Sloane......Liam Sullivan
Kemp.....Michael Bradshaw
Ed......Michael Balcanoff

It's gratifying to find that even in this jaded age a 33- year-old play can still be shocking, outrageous, and funny as hell all at the same time. Joe Orton's script, Robert J. Bouffier's excellent cast, and performances as finely tuned as a Swiss- movement watch make "Entertaining Mr. Sloane" at The Lyric Stage a hilarious, eyebrow-raising delight.

The play starts with startlingly swift seductions and hinted secrets of hidden pasts, and ends in matter-of-fact negotiations of pure power. The battleground is middle-class immorality, in which a landlady and her businessman brother both find her new lodger a willing, though opportunistic sex-object.

It's not that Sloane, played by drop-dead-handsome Liam Sullivan, lies convincingly; rather, he tells everyone the lies they would like most to hear. Aging Kath (Paula Plum) sees him as both the lover of her youth and, perhaps, the orphaned fruit of that affair she never got to mother. Ed (Michael Balcanoff), on the other hand, sees him as the "mate" of his youth who went wrong with girls and actually got sister Kath with child. Truth is teased out slowly because all three lie as much to themselves as to one another.

The only person in the household who doesn't lie is Kath's and Ed's Dada, a doddering old age pensioner played by Michael Bradshaw. His frail, helpless honesty marks him as a victim for all the brazen liars circling round him.

What's most surprising though is that all these outrageous shenanigans are never over the top, but just over the edge. What astonishes is not the brazen, selfish acts these respectably middle-class citizens commit, but the devious self-deceptions which allow them to commit them so calmly.

Director Robert Bouffier has taken full advantage of the intimacy of the Lyric's thrust-stage, on which the merest flicker of emotion across an actor's face is a thunderingly obvious revelation of underlying motivations. Though there is a murder- mystery buried in this satire, the script and these actors first reveal all the basic truths of these characters, and then make everyone forget them until --- Surprise! --- they crop up again, unavoidable at last.

Never has such emotional mayhem been handled so delicately.



140 Clarendon Street, BOSTON
till 2 February

THE THEATER MIRROR, Boston's LIVE Theater Guide