In a none-too-fashionable London neighborhood in the early 1960s, middle-aged Kath (Claire Schoonover) invites the young Mr. Sloane (Mathew Aldwin McGee) to rent a room in the home she shares with her elderly father Kemp (David Bryan Jackson).
Soon the presence of the young boarder causes Kath and her class-conscious brother Ed (Jim Jorgensen) to become painfully aware of their various repressions, and their situation devolves into one of manipulation, sexual deviance, and senseless violence.
First produced in 1964, Entertaining Mr. Sloane is the first play by controversial and extremely influential British playwright Joe Orton and this production by the Edge of the Universe Players 2 is a wonderful opportunity to see this rarely-produced (at least on this side of the pond) play.
The cast thoroughly embrace the dark humor of the play and have the audience laughing at things that are perhaps not as shocking now as they were in 1964 but are still, objectively, far from light.
If the first act was, when I saw it, perhaps a little slow, it was more than made up for by the rapid-fire humor and pitch perfect pacing of Acts Two and Three.
Claire Schoonover, as Kath, is very funny as we watch her throw herself at her young boarder, but we never lose the character’s heart for the sake of humor; Kath is desperate to be loved, and the audience continues to feel for her as she travels further and further into depravity.
Kath’s brother Ed is a character from another time, whose deeply repressed homosexuality is apparent to the audience but not to those around him. Jorgensen is dynamic and engaging as Ed, who uses his success and professed “influence” to manipulate his sister, his father, and the young boarder he mostly refers to as “boy.” Although Kemp may seem at the beginning to be just another cranky old man, by the end of the play he is revealed to be the most sympathetic character of them all.
ENTERTAINING MR. SLOANE
November 21 – December 13
The Edge of the Universe Players 2
at The Writer’s Center
4508 Walsh Street
Bethesda, MD 20817
2 hours, 15 minutes with 1 intermission
Thursdays thru Sundays
Entertaining Mr. Sloane doesn’t have the shock value today that it did to its original audience; Ed’s homosexuality and Sloane’s willingness to sleep with both men and women had a much different meaning in England in 1964, when homosexuality was still illegal and societal roles, especially British ones, were much more rigid. However, the play has enough violence, manipulation and murder not only to live up to Joe Orton’s reputation for pitch-black comedy but also to satisfy a modern audience.
Entertaining Mr. Sloane by Joe Orton . Directed by Stephen Jarrett . Featuring Claire Schoonover, Matthew Aldwin McGee, David Bryan Jackson, and Jim Jorgenson . Set Design: Giorgos Tsappas . Light Design: Marianne Meadows . Sound Design: Edward Moser . Costume Design: Erik Teauge . Prop Design: Kevin Laughton . Stage Manager: Laurel VanLandingham . Assistant Stage Manager: Salima Seale . Produced by The Edge of the Universe Players 2. Reviewed by Jessica Pearson.