by Susan Hasho
The play Entertaining Mr. Sloane opens in a cozy British sitting room. An attractive middle-aged lady is perched dead center on a comfy flowered sofa sitting happily in wait. The buffed handsome object of her attention enters asking questions about the room for rent. And we’re off…
The dark, suspicious humor of Joe Orten (1933–1967) has lived well beyond his short life to amuse and offend several generations of theater and movie audiences. This revival, directed by Craig Smith, is as good a production as anyone could wish.
We are led through a gorgeously sordid farce with four misfits of differing stripes. Kath, played by the brilliant Elise Stone, is a complicated, plump partridge of a woman chasing away her loneliness in an apron, pumps and negligée. She lives with her father Kemp or Dadda played with Shakespearean broken-down bluster by John Lenartz. Her desired roommate Sloane is played by the boyish and charmingly treacherous Matt Baguth.
The house borders on garbage dump (perhaps a metaphor for England in the ‘60s). And Kath’s controlling brother Ed played by Antonio Edwards Suarez with a sort of funny strength, not unlike that of a Bantam rooster, runs what might be a garage. The father meets Sloane and doesn’t like him from the beginning, thinks he may be a murderer he knew about several years ago. But Kath is smitten and sets about seducing Sloane with ripe sexuality and a mothering incestuous giggle. Ed enters the scene not too keen on this handsome bloke so close to his sister but is convinced by Sloane’s eagerness to ingratiate to employ him at the garage. It all goes wrong of course.
Sloane is just as capable of seducing Ed as he is Kath. So when Kath gets pregnant, Ed gets very angry. How it goes wrong from there is at once predictable and surprising. That is the genius of Joe Orton—to never provide sure footing or an easy explanation. Life is menacing and funny, so laugh at your own peril.
So what happens at the end? Sorry, you must go see it. This production is outstanding.
Photos: Jerry Goodstein
May 4‒May 14 at the Wild Project, produced by The Phoenix Theatre Ensemble
195 East 3rd Street, NYC. Box Office: 212-352-3101