'Entertaining Mr. Sloane' And Everybody At HotCity Theatre

By Christopher Reilly
In Culture

Joe Orton’s black comedy, “Entertaining Mr. Sloane,” playing at HotCity Theatre, is the seamy tale of a middle-aged brother and sister as they compete, connive and canoodle for the intimate attentions of a sexually and morally ambiguous young lodger. Scandalous when the play premiered in 1964, “Sloane” barely raises a censor’s eyebrow nowadays. Nevertheless, it makes for a breezy evening of theater full of double entendres, sharp humor and excellent performances from one of the best overall casts in recent memory.

"Entertaining Mr. Sloane" at Hot City Theatre

“Entertaining Mr. Sloane” at HotCity Theatre.

Each of the actors make big, bold character choices and pull them off without sacrificing believability. Lavonne Byers as Kath, the sister whose interest is more licentious than landlady, pulls off a skilled performance as she fusses over and seduces Sloane in lovable—and hilarious—fashion. Paul Cereghino plays the young lodger with as much smarm as charm, switching from youthful innocent to unnerving menace in a finger snap. He may have committed a murder, a notion that Cereghino’s brooding Sloane makes perfectly plausible.

The brother, Ed, played convincingly by Michael James Reed, is a brutish, demanding fellow who has a specific set of definitions as to what makes a man and how he should behave. One wonders how his lurid desires for the lodger fit in with his neatly ordered world. Bill Grivna plays Kemp, the doddering old father, expertly and is the only one who sees the lodger for what he truly is.

Kudos are due to C. Otis Sweezy for the (relatively) spectacular set, larger and more expansive perhaps than any set before inside the Kranzberg Arts Center. Sean Savoie’s lights and Becky Fortner’s costumes are effective, and Bill Whitaker’s direction keeps the show moving briskly and elicits top notch performances from his cast.

The characters are a self-centered group, only interested in satisfying their own desires, and each of them wears a kind of mask. Kath’s mask is the silly and amusing British housewife who suddenly turns cold and vengeful when threatened with losing something she wants, and brother Ed’s mask is the upstanding businessman of fine character whose real character is anything but fine. And the young Mr. Sloane has as many masks as there are beneficial situations he can insinuate himself into. It’s no surprise then that the old man, the only one who doesn’t don a mask, is the only one who sees the truth. Perhaps Orton was telling us something when he set this family’s home on the edge of a trash dump.

“Entertaining Mr. Sloane” continues at HotCity Theatre through Sept. 21, Thursdays and Fridays at 8pm, Saturdays at 3pm and 8pm, and Sundays at 7pm. For tickets visit the HotCity Theatre website, or call 314.289.4060.

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