Mr. Sloane is Not So Entertaining
Programs at Theater Schmeater’s production of Entertaining Mr. Sloane (through June 16, $15 – $23) come with a warning: there will be two intermissions. Over the two and a half hours that follow, Theater Schmeater gathers a quartet of unappealing characters to feed off one another with blatant manipulations. Joe Orton’s ostensibly black comedy is too banal to be called absurd and too predictable to be called humorous.
The initial scene has some energy as the wayward youth, Sloane (Harry Todd Jamieson), works his way into the good graces of his prospective landlady, Kath (Lisa Viertel). She doesn’t put up much of a fight so that energy quickly fizzles to be replaced by simple annoyance with the entrance of Kath’s father, Kemp (Mark Fullerton). His face is painfully pinched, his gait is slow but lacks the care of someone unsteady on their feet and desperate not to fall.
Kemp provides a little foreshadowing and a near-random act of violence, and with that the show is just about out of tricks. When Kath’s brother Ed (James Cowan) enters Entertaining Mr. Sloane reveals what little else it has to offer and slows further.
With the exception of a brief interaction between Kath and Sloane near the end of the play the actors seem to be waiting for one another to finish each line before speaking the next. It could be that they are failing to do their basic function of listening and responding to one another, but they seem to be connecting emotionally. In most cases the problem feels like one of pacing. Perhaps director J.D. Lloyd hopes the torpid tempo will help audiences cut through the accents. Mostly he succeeds in destroying any shred of latent comedy left in the script.
Those accents are relatively consistent for the most part, though Viertel veers into the American south occasionally and only Cowan approaches a proper pitch pattern. Possibly due to the care he gives his accent Cowan personally drags the show to a standstill, turning his performance into a series of postures. This might be appropriate for his character but it is maddening for the audience. Were the artifice more pronounced it might approach art, but mostly it just feels self-indulgent.
Costumes are a mix of off-the-rack and out-of-the-rummage-bin. Ed’s suit is more 1974 than 1964 and 2-3 inches too short in the sleeves. Like so much of this show one wants to believe that this is a mark of character-driven insight but evidence suggests otherwise.
The restrictions of Schmeater’s small stage create an almost cubist set of interpenetrated layers decorated with faded fauvist massive floral patterns set against a trim of poorly installed fake brick. Highlights of the set include a mysterious patch of black paint near the top of a column and baseboards that seem to float off the walls. These provide some interest to the production, but not for two and a half hours.