ENTERTAINING MR. SLOAN ****
WHAT: A vicious satire by Joe Orton, directed by Scott Behrend, starring David Avery, Kamala Boeck
WHEN: Through Oct. 8
WHERE: New Phoenix Theatre on the Park, 95 N. Johnson Park
ADMISSION: $15, $12 students and seniors
"Entertaining Mr. Sloan," now onstage at the New Phoenix Theatre on the Park, one of Buffalo's neat little out-of-the-way playhouses, is a farce by the late Joe Orton, a satirical British genius, gay icon and '60s tabloid star who could curdle the milk of human kindness. His best-known plays are as hilarious in form as they are odious in content, savage in their contempt for working class mores. This production is as nihilistic, immoral and weird as anything you'll see this season and it may make you sick with laughter.
Directed by Scott Behrend, the production stars David Avery as Sloan, a handsome young lower-class psychopathic "orphan" who, without trying much, wins the hearts and loins of a couple of working class grotesques.
They are "businessman" Ed (Richard Lambert) and his sexually slavering 41-year-old sister Kath (Kamala Boeck). Kath lives in a ratty flat off the pension of their mistreated, crusty, addle-brained old man, Dada (Joseph Giambra).
When Sloan pops in to rent a room from Kath, Dada thinks he recognizes him from somewhere. He's right, but Sloan's tight abs and polymorphous perversity get the lad a lot more than the room, which spells bad news for Dada.
The acting and directing is quite good here, although I suspect with Orton, as with other playwrights with distinct and peculiar voices, familiarity breeds perfection.
Boeck's performance as a dull-witted and pathetic sexual predator is absolutely outrageous, incredibly funny and frankly the life of this sick little party. She keeps the sexual tension crackling like a frayed wire and perfectly defines the scabby working class mores that Orton is out to fry.
Giambra defines Dada well, although clearer direction would balance the revulsion and bathos of the old man and bring him forward into the play a little more. Lambert is good as Ed, despite finding the character's slimy working class pretensions a bit too subtle. Avery is more engaging than called for by his role.
The main criticism is that the accents run up and down the British social scale from Michael Caine to David Niven. Still, it hardly gets in the way of Orton's vicious satire.