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WHAT THE BUTLER SAW

WHAT THE BUTLER SAW

by Joe Orton

Lakeside Community Theatre

Directed by – David J. Wallis
Set Design – Juan M. Perez
Lighting Design – Alyssa McGee & Rustin Rolen
Sound Design – Daniel Bergeron
Costume & Hair Design – Hope Cox
Props Design – Elise Knox
Stage Manager – Rustin Rolen


CAST
Juan M. Perez – Dr. Prentice
Madison Armstrong – Geraldine Barclay
Ariana Cox – Mrs. Prentice
Devin Kelly – Nicholas Beckett
Paul Keyes – Dr. Rance
Dakoda Taylor – Sergeant Match


Reviewed Performance: 1/19/2018

Reviewed by Carol M. Rice, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN

It’s rare that I see a disclaimer in the playbill when I go to a show, but I will admit to be slightly relieved to read this during intermission: “WHAT THE BUTLER SAW is set in 1966, a very different era of human history. It may contain subject matter that some may offensive in the year 2018.” While Joe Orton’s now classic play is not shocking in the same way it was when first performed in 1970, modern sensibilities, especially in our politically charged climate, do make some of the casual references to things like rape more than a bit jarring. At the time, Orton’s dislike of the status quo and authority figures, not to mention his disdain towards psychology and the repressed British attitude towards sex, resulted in his cheerfully skewering them all, kind of like a more modern Oscar Wilde (who was, not coincidentally, one of his heroes), and it really was shocking for audiences. This really is a hard one to get right since it does combine farce with social commentary – social commentary which now has a very different slant since the free-wheeling 1960s.

Juan M. Perez played psychiatrist Dr. Prentice who in the first few minutes is interviewing an extremely innocent and naïve young woman to be his secretary...and manages to convince her to completely undress so he can make sure she’s fit enough for the work he’s going to have her do. Perez started off very stiff in the scene (pun NOT intended), and it’s clear early on that he was struggling some with lines. Fortunately as the play went on, he warmed up a bit and became more relaxed, and his facial expressions and body language were excellent. He played the physical comedy extremely well, and overall, he gave a fine performance.

Madison Armstrong was the strongest actor in the show as secretarial hopeful (and later escaped mental patient) Geraldine Barclay. Armstrong had good physical timing and her wide eyes and sweet-sounding voice worked beautifully for the character. She was fun to watch, whether “drugged” and seeing things that aren’t there, or dressed as a male bellhop later in the show to try to escape being committed.

As the doctor’s wife, Mrs. Prentice, Ariana Cox was far too young to be convincing. She had a nice bearing, but her youthful voice gave her away. It was often difficult to understand her, too, especially in the beginning, mainly because she talked so fast. I don’t know if that was opening night nerves or what, but enunciation was definitely an issue.

As Nicholas Bennett, the blackmailing rapist of Mrs. Prentice, Devin Kelly obviously had a fun time with his role. He spent a great deal of time in a dress, and even more time in his boxers, and he had some great comedic, physical moments throughout the show. However, he was even more difficult to understand than Cox, and I’m sure I missed some very funny stuff just because I couldn’t make it out.

Much of these diction problems can easily be blamed on the attempt at a British accent, which no one in the show managed well. In fact, by the end the accents were almost nonexistent, and the play as a whole would have benefitted from a standard American dialect.

Dakoda Taylor as Sergeant Match had the best luck with his Irish accent, but it was still occasionally muddled and hard to understand. Taylor still managed to stand out (again, pun not intended!), and not just because he spent much of the show in a pair of very skimpy Union Jack Speedo type underwear. His sardonic delivery and facial expressions were very funny, and he owned the scenes he is in.

Paul Keyes played Dr. Rance, who shows up ostensibly to check out Dr. Prentice’s office but in reality is there to get some ideas about finishing his book. The character really is a bit insane, yet he’s really projecting his issues onto everyone else. Keyes tended to speak in a loud monotone with little facial expression, and he struggled mightily with his lines on opening night. Every scene he was seemed to creep to a standstill. Pacing was a problem throughout the play, but this was most apparent when he was on stage.

Perez, in addition to playing the lead, designed the attractive and rather intricate set. With its many doors, painted wallpaper and wood grain, and classic furniture (where DID they get that crazy red couch???), it was serviceable and fun. This was definitely the best set I have ever seen at Lakeside Community Theatre, and I’ve seen many shows there.

The lighting by Alyssa McGee & Rustin Rolen complemented the set and the comedy, and Daniel Bergeron’s sound effects and music were appropriate for the time. There were lots of nice choices for pre-show and intermission music. Costume designer Hope Cox must be complimented on being able fit various costumes on and off very different body types without their looking ridiculous. Definite kudos there! Elise Knox’s props worked well in their scenes, too.

Director David J. Wallis took on a bit of a challenge with What the Butler Saw. Classic British farce is always harder than it appears, and throwing social commentary in on top of farce makes it even harder. Not that this affected the nearly full house much on opening night. The audience was full of laughter almost from the get-go except when the pacing dragged here and there. And as the actors relax into their characters more and the run gets fully underway, I have a feeling pace will improve...and then they’ll just have to hold more for laughs!

WHAT THE BUTLER SAW

Lakeside Community Theatre
6303 Main Street
The Colony, Texas 75056
Runs through Saturday, February 3.

Actual days: Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00 pm except for Saturday, February 3, when the show is at 3:00 pm

Tickets are $10-15

For information and to purchase tickets, go to https://www.lctthecolony.com/ or call the box office at 214.801.4869.
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