Entertaining Mr. Sloane Review
This comic nightmare, exemplary of Orton...is a twisted combination of idolatry and villainy, within a soap opera-like setting.by Christopher Verleger, EDGE
Playwright Joe Orton once commented, “The trouble with Western Society is the lack of anything to conceal.”
The motley crew of characters assembled in his dark and disturbing yet alarmingly amusing “Entertaining Mr. Sloane,” now UpStage at 2nd Story Theatre, are guilty of something, either outright illegal or at least untoward, yet try as they might, hiding from the truth proves to be an exercise in futility.
Ed Shea directs this comic nightmare, exemplary of Orton, who in life was jailed for defacing library books and risked further imprisonment by living as an openly gay man. It’s no surprise then that this work is a twisted combination of idolatry and villainy, within a soap opera-like setting.
Kath (Rae Mancini) is a lonely, randy landlady just over forty who has — or believes she still has — the sex appeal of a woman half her age. Her latest boarder, the orphaned Mr. Sloane (Cory Crew), is handsome and fittingly young enough to be her son. Kath’s aging father, Kemp (Tom Roberts), is convinced he has met Mr. Sloane before but cannot recall where.
Kath’s brother, the frustrated, flamboyant Ed (John Michael Richardson), who hasn’t spoken to his father in decades, is immediately drawn to Mr. Sloane and makes it his duty to protect him from his sister Kath’s wicked, seductive ways. Just as he finishes unpacking his bags, Mr. Sloane is appointed Ed’s chauffeur, as well as the object of Kath’s affection.
The ensuing drama comically demonstrates this family’s glaring dysfunction and provides additional detail of the mysterious Mr. Sloane’s identity and violent tendencies. While the too easily influenced siblings spar like two catty school girls, the opportunistic Mr. Sloane ignores their bitter banter and takes full advantage of the amenities within his reach, like Ed’s car and Kath’s bedroom.
Kemp eventually recognizes the youngster, but his son and daughter are too far selfishly invested in his well-being and dismiss (or downplay, rather) their father’s murderous accusations. Nevertheless, Mr. Sloane soon learns his masterful methods of manipulation are far from foolproof.
2nd Story newcomer Crew shows impressive stage presence and an amiable audacity in the titular role, among a trio of veterans, including Roberts, who does a fine job as ornery Kemp.
The always enchanting Mancini delivers another winning performance as cougar Kath and Richardson is equally entertaining as sassy, sarcastic Ed. Both appear to revel in portraying these maladjusted misfits, and their interplay makes this production all the more enjoyable.
I have always championed Orton, whose work is criminally underrepresented at community theaters (in my humble opinion), so I commend Ed Shea and his colorful cast at 2nd Story for bringing long overdue attention to the playwright and his work.