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The B List: Five reasons HotCity's 'Mr. Sloane' is disturbingly entertaining

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Sept. 11, 2013 - “Every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way,” Tolstoy said, but the clan in Joe Orton’s farcical “Entertaining Mr. Sloane,” presented by HotCity Theatre, truly stands apart for its depravity.

Forty-one-year old Brit, Kath (Lavonne Byers) takes in as a boarder 20-year-old Mr. Sloane (Paul Cereghino), a young con with a vague childhood-in-an-orphanage story. She and her brother Ed (Michael James Reed) both view “the boy” as a sexual prospect, and Kath wants to be his lover and his Mama. Only their father, Dadda, (Bill Grivna) sees through Sloane’s practiced charm. The script and its direction by Bill Whittaker provide numerous enticements for leaving one's own living room to witness the sadly hilarious activity taking place on this family’s couch:

  1. The innuendo: “Let me plump your cushion,” Ed tells Sloane.
  2. The understatement: “I’m beginning to think you don’t love Mama,” Kath says to Sloane, who clearly never did.
  3. Kath’s quick morphing by Byers from victim to power player when she realizes she holds a key to keeping Sloane's attention: “Don’t make me unhappy,” she says, channeling Glenn Close's, "I'm not going to be ignored, Dan," in "Fatal Attraction."
  4. Byers’ Lucille-Ball-like comedic techniques: the exaggerated squint, the snaggletoothed grin, the halfhearted attempt at knitting.
  5. The textbook sociopathology against a backdrop of cluelessness: Underneath the humor and at the heart of “Mr. Sloane” is an unblinking look at extreme dysfunction: misogynistic control (Ed), elder abuse (Sloane) and a ruthless disregard for humanity (everyone but Dadda). All in all, “It’s been a pleasant morning,” Ed concludes.

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