Thursday, September 12, 2013

ENTERTAINING MR. SLOANE • HotCityTheatre

"Entertaining Mr. Sloane", written by English playwright Joe Orton, is currently getting a jaunty revival at HotCity.  This sordid little comedy that premiered in 1964 may have lost some of its shock value over the years, but none of the fascination in watching these characters behaving badly.

Kath (Lavonne Byers), who lives on the edge of a dumping site with her grumpy father, Kemp (Bill Grivna), or “Dada” as she calls him, comes home one day with young, good-looking Mr. Sloane (Paul Cereghino), whom she says she met at the library.  Sloane, immediately identifiable as a smooth opportunist, overflowing with self-assured swagger, needs a room, and Kath, about 20 years his senior, is desperate to have him.  REALLY desperate.  She swears that her intentions toward Sloane are maternal, but the barely restrained excitement she displays when tending a wound of his (just inside his thigh, wouldn't you know), says otherwise.  While they both take turns seducing each other, Kath's brother Ed (Michael James Reed) stops by.  His visits are rare because of a falling out he had with his dad, but he wants to meet this Mr. Sloane.  Ed has an inflated ego (Lord only knows why), and thinks of himself as a successful, honorable type, but his repressed attraction to Mr. Sloane betrays him, too.  He insists on having a few words with Sloane, and decides that this young orphan needs guidance with a steady hand, and hatches an idea to employ Sloane as his chauffeur.  Little leather black cap and everything.  Sloane goes with the flow, engaging in conversations with Ed about erotics…  oops, I mean, athletics, and agrees to Ed's suggestions, much to the chagrin of his sister who wants Sloane all to herself.

Paul Cereghino (Mr. Sloane) and Lavonne Byers (Kath). 
Photo credit: Todd Studios
These people are whack, but they attract and repel.  None of them are what they seem to think they are.  They're willing to use each other for what they can get, capable of more than you'd guess, and also a couple of cans short of a six pack.  Dada is the lone dissenter who doesn't fall for Sloane's charm.  His suspicion about the young guest's murderous past brings out an ominous side to Sloane early on that sets the dynamic of the whole play on a calamitous trajectory.

Director Bill Whitaker keeps the pace high throughout this farce, and the production is bolstered by a very strong cast.  Byers combines an unpredictability that makes you slightly nervous with a frenzied state of confusion and great comic timing, making you want to see what Kath will do next.  Cereghino has the looks and a magnetic caginess to pull off the pliable Mr. Sloane with credibility.  Reed also brings his role of Ed alive, underscoring Ed's pompous facade with a lecherous core.  It's hard not to chuckle at every tottering step Grivna takes as Dada.  Blind as a bat, but the one with the clearest vision, Grivna doesn't get lost in the shuffle of the other characters.  C. Otis Sweezy provides the handsome set, with lighting by Sean Savoie, sound design by Zoe C. Sullivan, and spot on costumes by Becky Fortner.

Bill Grivna (Kemp) and
Paul Cereghino (Mr. Sloane).
Photo credit: Todd Studios
From the pre-show announcement, courtesy of Kath, to the hilarious events that unfold, you might find it hard to root for any of these people, but that doesn't make their entanglements any less fun to watch.  It runs until the 21st at the Kranzberg.


ENTERTAINING MR. SLOANE

Written by Joe Orton
Directed by Bill Whitaker
Kranzberg Arts Center, 501 North Grand Blvd.
through September 21 | tickets: $20 - $25
Performances Thursday and Friday at 8pm, Saturday at 3pm and 8pm, Sundays at 7pm
Update: 9.21 3pm matinee CANCELLED

Cast:
Lavonne Byers (Kath), Bill Grivna* (Kemp), Michael James Reed* (Ed) and Paul Cereghino (Sloane).
* Member Actors' Equity Association


Creative:
Scenic design by C. Otis Sweezy; lighting design by Sean Savoie; sound design by Zoe C. Sullivan; costume design by Becky Fortner; properties, Meg Brinkley; stage manager, Kate Koch.

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