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ENTERTAINING MR. SLOANE at Irish Classical is long and wordy

THE BASICS:  ENTERTAINING MR. SLOANE, a 1964 play by Joe Orton presented by the Irish Classical Theatre Company, directed by ICTC Associate Director Greg Natale, starring Kelli Bocock-Natale, Anthony J. Grande, Stan Klimecko, and Gerry Maher runs through June 30, Thursdays and Fridays at 7:30 p.m., Saturdays at 3 & 7:30, and Sundays at 2 at the ICTC’s home, the Andrews Theatre, 625 Main Street (853-ICTC). www.irishclassicaltheatre.com Runtime: 2-1/2 hours including one intermission

THUMBNAIL SKETCH: From the ICTC website: “Kath, a lonely landlady, invites the handsome and mysterious drifter, Mr. Sloane, to become her lodger. Both Kath and her brother are deeply attracted to Sloane, who Kath’s father claims is a sociopathic killer…”

THE PLAYERS, THE PLAY, AND THE PRODUCTION: According to the ICTC website and publicity, the “…plot rockets to a shocking and unexpected climax… Entertaining Mr. Sloane will not disappoint.”

Well, that just ain’t so. First off, nothing rockets in this two-and-a-half hour play. It’s very wordy. And the ending isn’t shocking. It’s evident right from the start that these characters are a bit off their rocker, and have a tenuous grasp on reality, which is fine, but once we accept their eccentricities, then nothing they do is really “shocking.” And the biggest “unexpected” aspect of the climax was the lack thereof. When the house lights came up, people were asking, out loud, “Is that the ending?”

And that’s a shame because the casting was inspired and each of the actors was excellent. Excellent (as were their costumes by Vivan DelBello). Right away, Kelli Bocock-Natale as “Kath” gives us a real Liza Doolittle Cockney “awwwrrrr” and never breaks character. She gets involved in some very funny physical comedy. Stan Klimecko plays her brother “Ed” who explains during the play how, through effort, he has risen in status, but as financially successful as he is, he’s obviously uncomfortable around the other two men. He hasn’t really spoken to his dad, “Kemp” or “da-DA” since 20 years ago when dad (played with gruff displeasure by Jerry Maher) discovered Ed’s interest in other men. And the other man who makes Ed very nervous is Mr. Sloane, played by Anthony J. Grande, who has, and does again here, play someone who is attractive to both sexes. Again, the cast is excellent.

More, from the publicity: “Themes of murder, nymphomania and sadism bubble just below the surface…” Well, I’m not sure about all that, either. Murder, yes. But one definition of sadism is “the tendency to derive pleasure, especially sexual gratification, from inflicting pain, suffering, or humiliation on others.” What we see isn’t sadism, it’s simple bullying to get one’s own way. As to nymphomania, “uncontrollable or excessive sexual desire in a woman” that’s a bit unfair. Kath is lonely and Mr. Sloane is very young and attractive. Why is Kath’s sexual attraction labeled “nymphomania” but Ed’s sexual attraction is mentioned only obliquely?

This 1964 play was originally in three acts and, when changed into two acts, should have been edited (assuming rights to do so could have been had). It reminded me of watching the 1968 Steve McQueen movie Bullitt forty years later. Everyone remembers it as a fast-paced action/thriller, but if you look at it with 21st century eyes, it drags. McQueen walks toward a door, he opens it, he steps outside, we change POV, he closes the door, he walks to his Dodge Charger, he gets in, he starts driving, we change POV, he drives. OMG.

Some entertainments just don’t time travel well. ENTERTAINING MR. SLOANE is one of them.

*HERD OF BUFFALO (Notes on the Rating System)

ONE BUFFALO: This means trouble. A dreadful play, a highly flawed production, or both. Unless there is some really compelling reason for you to attend (i.e. you are the parent of someone who is in it), give this show a wide berth.

TWO BUFFALOS: Passable, but no great shakes. Either the production is pretty far off base, or the play itself is problematic. Unless you are the sort of person who’s happy just going to the theater, you might look around for something else.

THREE BUFFALOS: I still have my issues, but this is a pretty darn good night at the theater. If you don’t go in with huge expectations, you will probably be pleased.

FOUR BUFFALOS: Both the production and the play are of high caliber. If the genre/content are up your alley, I would make a real effort to attend.

FIVE BUFFALOS: Truly superb–a rare rating. Comedies that leave you weak with laughter, dramas that really touch the heart. Provided that this is the kind of show you like, you’d be a fool to miss it!

Written by Peter Hall

Peter Hall

Peter Hall continues trying to figure out how "it" all works. For 20 years, as program host on Classical 94.5 WNED and continuing on-stage with the Buffalo Chamber Music Society, he's conducted over 1,000 interviews with artists as he asks them to explain, in layman's terms, "what's the big picture here?"

As mentioned recently in Buffalo Spree magazine, Peter's "Buffalo Rising reviews are the no-holds barred 'everyman's' take." And, on “Theater Talk” (heard Friday mornings at 6:45 and 8:45 a.m. on WBFO 88.7 FM and Saturday afternoons at 5:55 p.m. on Classical 94.5 WNED) his favorite question of co-host Anthony Chase is simply "What's goin' on?"

A member of Buffalo's Artie Awards Committee, Peter holds a B.A. in Comparative Literature from Columbia University and an M.B.A. from SUNY at Buffalo. For over twenty-five years he has been an adjunct professor for Canisius College’s Richard J. Wehle School of Business.

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