Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Entertaining Mr. Sloane"

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note: entire contents copyright 2010 by Carl A. Rossi


by Joe Orton
directed by Eric Engel

Kath … Sandra Shipley
Sloane … Jack Cutmore-Scott
Kemp … Dafydd Rees
Ed … Nigel Gore

To quote from John Russell Taylor’s A DICTIONARY OF THE THEATRE:

“ORTON, JOE (1933-67). British dramatist, specialist in black comedy full of innuendo conveyed in tones of precarious gentility. Most successful play, ENTERTAINING MR. SLOANE (1964) followed by LOOT (1966) and the posthumously produced WHAT THE BUTLER SAW (1968), in similar style.”

In ENTERTAINING MR. SLOANE, the middle-aged Kath, a working-class coquette, takes in a mysterious stud named Sloane as a boarder; Kath’s designs on the lad are complicated by her brother Ed lusting after Sloane, himself, under pretense of employing Sloane as his private chauffeur --- their cantankerous father Kemp, however, swears he has seen Sloane, somewhere, within a criminal context; the ever-shifting exchanges, alternately comic and tragic, are indeed “conveyed in tones of precarious gentility” to heighten the plot’s outrageousness. (If Mr. Orton was influenced by Harold Pinter’s offbeat style, Monty Python is forever indebted to Mr. Orton’s wicked anarchy.)

Publick Theatre Boston’s production is good but Eric Engel’s direction could have made it better: Sandra Shipley, in a welcome return to the local theatre-scene, is sublime as Kath, with every teacup-and-chintz inflection in place (though she mimes Kath’s dentures, when taken out, with teeth that only she can see), and Dafydd Rees’ Kemp is an endearing old-fart, right down to the masking tape that holds his glasses together --- but, then, they have the easier roles: Kath’s lust and cunning is front and center --- you know immediately where she’s coming from; Kemp has shut down into blunt second childhood and what he grunts, he means: though cantankerous, he’s the one decent character in the play. Ideally, Sloane and Ed should be master classes in two masculine men cruising each other in the old closeted days, with one foot on land and one foot at sea (do Sloane and Ed have sex within the play’s sixth-month timeframe? I think not; hence their mutual triumph at play’s end…); Jack Cutmore-Scott makes an angelic, dimpled Sloane, sulky rather than menacing, though his two short, swift acts of violence may well make you gasp, and Nigel Gore merely walks through and around the role of Ed (the audience may well think this Ed is hiring Sloane at face value, with Sloane chasing after him). Mr. Cutmore-Scott’s performance could be fine-tuned to show more of Sloane’s mind at work (and some reciprocal lust towards Kath wouldn’t hurt); Mr. Gore would be a challenge for methinks he’d rather be elsewhere.

"Entertaining Mr. Sloane" (11 March-3 April)
Plaza Theatre, Boston Center for the Performing Arts, 539 Tremont Street, BOSTON, MA
1 (617) 933-8600

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England’s LIVE Theater Guide