Published June 15, 2019|Updated June 15, 2019
… From the first moment of the play, when Kelli Bocock-Natale races onto the stage as sexually frustrated “Kath,” the world of Joe Orton explodes onto the stage of the Andrews Theatre in all its joyfully perverse and cynical glory.
In “Entertaining Mr. Sloane,” middle-aged “Kath” meets young and handsome “Mr. Sloane” and brings him home, ostensibly as a potential boarder. What ensues is a story of socially inappropriate sexual desires run amok.
Both Kath and her closeted brother Ed, played by Stan Klimecko, are sexually attracted to Mr. Sloane. They become obsessed with him and competitive for his attention. Meanwhile, their father, played by Gerry Maher, recognizes Mr. Sloane, as the young hustler who murdered his boss. Given Mr. Sloane’s assets, this possibility does not concern anybody else too much. This collision of sexual desire, criminality, and sheer absurdity, characterizes the small but enormously influential dramatic output of Joe Orton.
Director Greg Natale has assembled a dream cast for this production.
To begin, Kelli Bocock-Natale is a comic genius … Her facial expressions, her gestures, her intonations, and her impeccable timing combine to create a work of hilarious wonder … Beneath a façade of guileless vulnerability, she is a shark. We delight in her every word and double take – the way she walks, the way she cries, the way she manipulates her world to satisfy her inappropriate and insatiable desires.
Coming from his recent triumph as sleazy Cosmo Vittelli in the Torn Space Theater adaptation of John Cassavetes’ “The Killing of a Chinese Bookie,” actor Stan Klimecko seems to have trademarked onstage creepiness. As Ed, the way he exudes perverse delight while leering at Mr. Sloane simultaneously makes our skin crawl and triggers uncontrollable giggles. He embodies the character wholly and convincingly …
Costume designer Vivian DelBello has served these actors exceptionally well with clothes that amplify their characters brilliantly: Bocock-Natale in an alternately array of fashions for housewifery and for the boudoir; Klimecko in attire that speaks to both his sleaziness and his social pretentions.
Buffalo’s consummate character actor, Gerry Maher, is ideal in the role of “Kemp,” the father who represents the doomed voice of truth and reason in the demented world of this play. He deploys his pint-sized feistiness with fervor, and squeezes every drop of comedy and horror from the script.
Finally, Anthony J. Grande is hilarious as sociopathic and opportunistic, yet irresistibly charismatic Mr. Sloane. He is the bleached blond blank slate onto which Kath and Ed project their unfulfilled desires, and Grande gives a wonderfully underplayed performance.
Natale’s direction makes excellent use of the circular Andrews Theatre space. The production moves briskly, and gives these expert comic actors space to breath life into their roles. The play remains fresh, and while it may no longer be shocking, it still inspires irreverent joy.
“Entertaining Mr. Sloane”
4 stars (out of four)