November 7, 2003




This Butler Does it for Orton


The measure of any production of Joe Orton is how well it moves, both through time and space. By that measure, director Sean BranneyŐs crackling new production of What the Butler Saw is a winner.


If it does sound and look a bit rough around the edges--strained diction here, a miscast actor there--BranneyŐs Butler does manage to build to a second-act crescendo of nihilistic chaos thatŐs debilitatingly, inexplicably funny.


By the time it reaches this particular point of no return--with people in various states of undress and intoxication slamming doors, screaming in shock and running about brandishing firearms--the show has thoroughly won us over to its brand of mutually assured dysfunction.


Heading the cast with grimacing good humor is Matt Foyer as Dr. Prentice, the psychiatrist whose relatively innocent attempt to get into the pants of a secretarial applicant (Carolyn A. Palmer) leads to a mountingly perverse series of misunderstandings, misdiagnoses and misbehavior.


Matching him in aplomb is McKerrin Kelly as his bed-hopping wife, who manages to alternate bouts of credulous surprise and knowing cynicism without losing track of her character.


Except for the beguilingly wide-eyed Palmer, the rest of the cast isnŐt quite up to this level. As Dr. Rance, the voice of unreason from Her MajestyŐs Government, Noah Wagner is a shade too grinningly conspiratorial and his accent gives him trouble. Josh Thoemke makes an acceptably deadpan hotel page and John Jabaley a sternly slow-witted copper.


Not even slow wits can stem this productionŐs headlong momentum. OrtonŐs world is always mad, bad and dangerous to know. Presented this vigorously, itŐs also a revealingly guilty pleasure.


--Rob Kendt