May 23, 2022 Breaking News, Latest News, and Videos

“What The Butler Saw” On Stage Through Dec. 21:

Although “All About Eve” is not in the same genre as Joe Orton’s scathing satire “What The Butler Saw,” there was one line spoken by Margo Channing, played by the iconic Bette Davis, that could very easily sum up the high-voltage shenanigans that take place in the current revival at the Mark Taper Forum: “Fasten your seat belts. It’s going to be a bumpy night.”  

Written in 1967, “What The Butler Saw” was Orton’s last play and biggest commercial success.  Shortly after its debut in London’s West End, Orton was murdered by his lover, Kenneth Halliwell.  

John Tillinger’s brilliant direction keeps the action moving at breakneck speed, barely giving the audience time to catch its breath between laughs.   

Orton’s satirical masterpiece takes place on James Noone’s insane asylum set, with several doors strategically placed for the characters to make hasty entrances and exits, much like the slamming doors you would see in the classic tradition of French bedroom farce.  

Orton uses the theatrical style of a sex farce as his backdrop to shoot comic lethal spears into the absurdities of just about every aspect of England’s social structure with no aspect of society safe from his exquisite barbs veiled in the most delightful dialogue.

Orton makes a mockery of psychiatry and psychiatrists, religion, government, politics, cross-dressing, homosexuality, the woeful state of marriage and fidelity, as well as illustrating through his delicious dialogue how a psychiatrist could twist the truth to support his diagnosis.

The play begins with the head of the mental hospital Dr. Prentice, a handsome, but lecherous man, played exquisitely by Charles Shaughnessy, who is a master at split second mercurial transitions.  

He is interviewing a sweet young thing for a secretarial position and when asked about her family, she says: “I lived in a normal family. I had no love.” Ms. Barkley (delightfully played by Sarah Manton) reluctantly answers Dr. Prentice’s very unprofessional questions. At the conclusion of the interview, he insists on performing a physical exam and instructs her to remove her clothing. With great trepidation, the young woman complies and thus starts the comedy of mistaken identities.

While disrobing, Ms. Barclay asks the doctor if he is married and his wife’s current location. The not-so-good doctor answers, “She is attending a meeting with her coven.” Well aware of his wife’s infidelities he adds, “My wife is a nymphomaniac.” But not all seductions go as planned as his wife appears unexpectedly, putting what he hopes is a temporary damper on his planned dalliance

Mrs. Prentice, the wife in question, is brilliantly played by Frances Barber, who gives a top-notch, comical performance. Her many hilarious freezes when stopped dead in her tracks by the play’s parade of shocking and surprising moments, are hilarious and as the libidinous seductress, she kept the audience howling with laughter. The more confusion she encounters, the more she takes another belt of booze, which at first she pours into a wine glass, but as the events get more and more confusing, bypasses the glass, and drinks directly from the bottle. Oh by the way. Mrs. Prentice has just had a brief interlude with the bellhop at a hotel who is blackmailing her with lewd photos demanding that her husband hire him for the open position of secretary.  

The next outrageous character to appear is Dr. Rance, commandingly played by Paxton Whitehead, a real nut job of a psychiatrist sent by the government to inspect the hospital and to evaluate Dr. Prentice’s performance. Turns out he’s also a sexual predator and when he finds the innocent Geraldine Barclay hiding naked behind a curtain, he, too, decides to have a go at her. Poor thing. She’s in so deep and after a while no one even believes that she’s Geraldine Barclay and eventually is committed to the hospital by Dr. Prentice, who signs the admission document to save his own hide.  

Next up is the young bellhop, Nicholas Beckett, who shows up at the hospital wearing his uniform. Wonderfully played by Angus McEwan, who at one point does some cross-dressing culminating in a “Full Monty,” covering his willy with a policeman’s cap belonging to the implacable Sergeant Match, played to perfection by veteran American character actor Rod McLachlan. The good sergeant is probably the poster child for Orton’s vision of inept law enforcement.

The craziness continues throughout this two-act play. Dr. Rance accuses Dr. Prentice of being mad to which he replies: “I’m not mad. It only looks that way.” Another one of Dr. Rance’s twisted gems, “You can’t be a rationalist in an irrational world. It isn’t rational.”  Finally, in a very funny version of a Shakespearean ending, facts are uncovered that conclude the play with an unexpected and frankly somewhat shocking dénouement.

Throughout the play’s action, Orton’s genius is revealed in his double-edged ability to critique social hypocrisy and keep the audience in stitches of laughter. It’s no wonder that the play feels as fresh and relevant today as it did when first produced in the 1960s, and Mr. Tillinger’s production does a splendid job of keeping alive Orton’s anarchic spirit.

Technically, the production is spot on with the Lighting Design by Ken Billington and John McKernon, Sound Design by John Gromada, and Costume Design by Laurie Churba Kohn, all enhancing this pitch perfect production.

Mark Taper Forum

135 N. Grand Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90012

Run:   Tuesdays – Fridays: 8 pm

            Saturdays: 2:30 pm & 8 pm

            Sundays: 7 pm

            Sundays: Nov. 30, Dec. 7, 14, 21 at 1 pm & 6:30 pm         

Closing Date: Dec. 21, 2014

Tickets: $25-$70

Reservations: 213. 628.2772 or www.CenterTheatreGroup.org

in News
Related Posts

Los Angeles Metro Sees 15.9 Percent Increase in Median Rent

May 20, 2022

May 20, 2022

Median rent of $2,258, according to recent report By Dolores Quintana The ongoing pandemic has exacerbated the issues of housing...

New Renderings for Frank Gehry Hotel Development in Santa Monica

May 20, 2022

May 20, 2022

Project would include hotel, apartments, retail and a museum By Dolores Quintana Slowly but surely, plans for a  Frank Gehry-designed...

Shared Mobility Plummets in Santa Monica

May 20, 2022

May 20, 2022

Recent report also shows that nearly half of riders make over $100,000 By Sam Catanzaro Shared mobility use in Santa...

Christopher Dishlip Selected as Santa Monica’s New Assistant Director of Public Works

May 20, 2022

May 20, 2022

Public Works Director Rick Valte announced the selection of Christopher Dishlip as Santa Monica’s new Assistant Director of Public Works....

Letter to Editor: Response to Himmelrich’s “We Walk the Talk” Column

May 20, 2022

May 20, 2022

By Beau Marks As a Santa Monica resident, I am dismayed by Sue Himmelrich’s response (“We Walk the Talk,” Santa...

Motional And UberEats Launch Autonomous Deliveries In Santa Monica

May 18, 2022

May 18, 2022

There Are Plans For Expansion Into The Rest Of Los Angeles Motional, a global driverless technology leader, and Uber Technologies...

Winston Pies Opening Third Location In Santa Monica

May 18, 2022

May 18, 2022

The restaurant used to be known as ButterCrust Pies Winston Pies is staying in Santa Monica when opening their third...

Only 10 Vaquita Porpoises Survive, But The Species May Not Be Doomed

May 17, 2022

May 17, 2022

Hope remains for the porpoise species not only survive but thrive with human help. By Stuart Wolpert The vaquita porpoise,...

The American Cinematheque Brings “Bleak Week” To Santa Monica’s Aero Theatre And The Los Feliz Three Theatre

May 17, 2022

May 17, 2022

33 Films From 18 Countries In One Week. By Dolores Quintana Sometimes when things are tough and you’re feeling down,...

Man Who Murdered His Family Members Pleads Guilty To Five Other Killings

May 16, 2022

May 16, 2022

Escobar injured an additional seven other people as well.  By Dolores Quintana A man, Ramon Escobar, has pleaded guilty to...

The price of gasoline in Los Angeles County Has Experienced The Largest Increase Since February

May 16, 2022

May 16, 2022

Gasoline prices in Orange County Have Also Increased By Dolores Quintana Regular self-serve gasoline in the county of Los Angeles...

Santa Monica Travel Summit Of 2022 Returns To Take On Tomorrow

May 16, 2022

May 16, 2022

The Event Was Held At The Jonathan Club On Santa Monica Beach By Staff Writer The 2022 Santa Monica Tourism...

City Council Extends Santa Monica’s Parklet Program: Santa Monica Beat – May 16th, 2022

May 16, 2022

May 16, 2022

Local news and culture in under 5 minutes.* City Council Extends Santa Monica’s Parklet Program * Santa Monica High School Students...

1221 Ocean Avenue Complex Sold For Record Price

May 16, 2022

May 16, 2022

Sold for a record price of $330 million. By Dolores Quintana The Irvine Company has sold 1221 Ocean Avenue to...

Office Construction Is Starting To Rise In Los Angeles

May 15, 2022

May 15, 2022

Property vacancies are still affecting growth.  By Dolores Quintana In March, the Los Angeles Metropolitan area had 3.2 million square...