Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Entertaining Mr. Sloane

Entertaining Mr. Sloane
Germinal Stage Denver: 2/10 – 3/18

Prick up your ears!
There is an excellent production of Joe Orton’s “Entertaining Mr. Sloane” now onstage at Germinal Stage Denver. You know. The play by that bad boy of 1960’s British theatre who shocked and scandalized the British public with such plays as “Loot” and “What the Butler Saw.” As the lights came up at the top of Germinal’s “Mr. Sloane” this reviewer thought that it might be a black comedy. It’s black all right. However, about the only funny thing in the show is Pamela Clifton’s brilliant and inimitable comic reading of the delusional landlady, Kath. There is not another actor in town, who can carry off this kind of low comedy with such hilarious brio. Her seduction of Sloane while wearing a diaphanous black nightie is hilarious. Clifton’s aura of humor infuses her character’s dialogue with a sardonic underpinning that is brilliant. Her personal gift for comedy allows us as audience a great clarity in being able to see the cynical honesty playwright Orton lends Kath’s crass vulgarity. A singularly strong performance by Augustus Truhn as Ed, Kath’s sexually repressed brother, solidly anchors the production. Nattily dressed in the fashionable suit created by Diamond, Truhn commands the stage. This artist is one of Denver’s finest actors and it is to be hoped that he will be seen again soon upon the stage at Germinal and elsewhere throughout the city. Seth Palmer Harris’s Sloane communicates bratty delinquency, cavalier sluttishness and vacuous narcissism better than any actor in memory. The color of his coif is that of the yellow cake seen on some Betty Crocker cake mix boxes. Harris is quite striking, in a manner of speaking posing idly in his head to toe Carnaby Street leather. His charming and cunning Sloane is a profligate wastrel (essentially a good-looking mannequin with homicidal tendencies) who is manipulating Kath and Ed as much as they are him.  As per Mr. Orton’s play we are given that exploited by both the lower and upper classes the double-dealing youth of Britain have their own special treat reserved for both of them - and their DaDa, too. Pathetically and dismally correct, Randy Diamon brilliantly portrays DaDa –Kath’s and Ed’s father-as one of the shuffling wounded. One might describe his whimpering decrepitude as tragedy in shoes. Sallie Diamond’s costume for this elderly character speaks volumes. His mismatched gardening outfit complete with hedge clippers that dangle dangerously close to his crotch let us know from the get go that his fate will be rotten awful. The savaging done by Mr. Sloane is enabled not only by the smarmy lust of Kath, but by the haughty and repressed homosexuality and exaggerated moral significance of her brother Ed. So observing the disregard of morality in both cases Mr. Sloane is able to play one against the other and have his proverbial bread buttered on both sides. Not only that but he can now have his homicidal habit enabled by the two of them as well. The play includes multiple jabs at the judicial system and many of the other facets of that sullied diadem Orton saw as “that great whore, society.” Directed and designed by Stephen R. Kramer, the proceedings take place in what one might think of as a respectable English living room. Having studied under Baierlein for all these years it is impossible for director Kramer to not have fallen heir to the Maestro’s command of all things theatre. His casting is impeccable. His method is both studied and disciplined. One supposes that if this play happens to be your cuppa tea, you may wish to check out the movie entitled “Prick Up Your Ears.” The film describes Joe Orton’s and Kenneth Halliwell’s tragic gay relationship. See if you can’t find a scene in “Educating Mr. Sloane” that may be seen as a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy of the way Orton would die at the hands of his lover. Orton’s play caused quite a stir at its opening resulting in a theatrical scandal non-pareil. In that respect “Entertaining Mr. Sloane” was a bit like its cousin Edward Bond’s  “Saved” which changed the censorship laws in Britain forever. “Saved,” in which a band of thugs stones a baby to death in its pram, had a harsh truth to relate to Great Britain. What playwright Edward Bond was saying was that the only ones who are “saved” after having been born into the lower class in England are those who are indeed stoned in their cradle.
Orton’s play has teeth and guts.
Go see it.
Germinal Stage Denver is located at West 44th Avenue and Alcott Street in Northwest Denver. Performances are Friday (8:00, $21.75), Saturday (8:00, $23.75) and Sunday (7:00, $19.75) through March 18. Friday, February 17th Germinal Stage is offering two for one tickets. For reservations call the box office at 303-455-7108.
                                     Augustus Truhn as Ed and Seth Palmer Harris as Mr. Sloane
                                                              Pamela Clifton as Kath
                                 Seth Palmer Harris as Mr. Sloane and Randy Diamon as Da-Da

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