I’ve been a fan of Ms. Byers for almost fifteen years now and have seen most of what she has done in that time. This production is some of her finest comic work. If you want a lesson in how farce and physicality should be done, prepare to be schooled by Byers and her Dada, Bill Grivna. It takes a commitment to the character and the ability to play beyond, but not too far beyond, reality; that’s where the humor happens. Byers does this by keeping her character’s face and eyes all innocence and confusion, while her hands grip, grope, press and prod Mr. Sloane’s young, supple flesh with the skill of a woman buying a young stallion. Her transitions from vulnerable to sexy to hurt to vengeful are mercurial and persuasive.
The play is an exploration of the hypocrisy Orton saw in middle class British society, in an era when he, as an openly gay man, could have been arrested at any time. Kath and her brother Ed, played by Michael James Reed, both live “upstanding lives” in public but have dark, salacious secrets. Enter Mr Sloane, needing a place to live, bringing out the secrets and scandals of the brother -sister duo and bringing his own enigma into Kath’s house. Only Dada, who pays dearly for the knowledge, sees him for the conniver he is. I wonder if Orton had a premonition when he wrote the scene where Sloane punishes Dada for what he knows.
This is one of the strongest shows, technically, that I have seen in recent HotCity history. C. Otis Sweezey’s set is gorgeous, solid and solidly middle class, the set dressings, Meg Brinkley’s props, Becky Fortner’s costumes, Zoe C. Sullivan’s jazzy sound design and Sean Savoie’s lights create the perfect mood and time. Kudos on great work and excellent teamwork.
So, if you like your comedy black, or you adore Lavonne Byers the way I do, don’t miss HotCity’s Entertaining Mr Sloane. It continues at the Kranzberg Arts Center through September 21st.