The play is a "tragic-comedy" of dark British humor, written a half century before its prime.
On stage at the Bethesda Writer's Center are Claire Schoonover (Kath), Matthew Aldwin McGee (Sloane, who is also the fight choreographer), David Bryan Jackson (Kemp), and Jim Jorgensen (Ed). They present a story of a young man temporarily housed with a woman old enough to be his mum, her brother, and their dad. (Applause to Naomi Robin, casting director.)
The decaying family resides in a house beside a dump and once you know a little something about the British author, Joe Orton (1933-1967), that rubbish heap may be the society he lampoons.
Sex and murder are usually a winning combination, but they were not enough to quell outrage when Sloane opened in London in 1964.
In the company's mission statement, producer
William Goodman writes that Edge players "seek deep, long-lasting meanings that may improve the human condition." Literature, theatre, and reasoning play key roles in the infinite race to achieve "a better society." Entertaining Mr. Sloan calls for examination of self, society, and legal structures, Mr. Goodman says.
Kath is starved for love and attention, captured in a prison by her crotchety dad and her manipulative brother. When Mr. Sloane comes to call, she gladly welcomes him, showering him with warmth and desire. She becomes his "Mama," he, the baby, and also, the target of more than one character.
The playwright, Joe Orton, was murdered by his lover only three years after Sloane made its debut. The editor of the play's 50th anniversary edition, Emma Parker, writes in program notes that Orton, who grew up in poverty, began writing plays when imprisoned for six months for defacing library books (which are now actually preserved in British museums).
Orton believed his harsh prison term was due to his gay life and sexuality, and he set out with words to debunk middle-class society and mores. (Wikipedia notes the adjective Ortonesque is sometimes used to refer to work characterized by dark and farcical cynicism.)
Jackson (also, dialect coach) is superb as the ill and bumbling father with his Bernie Sanders flyaway hair, thick, opaque glasses, and gait. He shifts his feet, looks askance, and stoops. Erik Teague dresses him in characteristically old man clothes with a sloppy open bathrobe and slippers, and puts little frilly dresses on Kath while Ed is straight up black and brown, nicely portrayed as one hungry to satisfy his own needs, like the rest of us.
That there are no stumbles in the fast dialogue between brother and sister is astonishing. The audience laughs and gasps at lines which offended ancient audiences.
Giorgos Tsappas's set design is spot-on. When drawn back, the curtains on a large window reveal nothing but a solid light blue wall (the sky?) which, with an outline in black of a tall heap of rubbish or coal pieces, would have added depth, but how do you illustrate society?
The interior of the cozy house belies the neighborhood, and when one considers it, the occupants, as well.
Sloane arrived about the same time as the anti-war, anti-establishment movements began sweeping the Western world. We like to think of ourselves as more tolerant now, but are we?
Continued enlightenment and messages about different lifestyles from yours and mine are always welcome and can help increase awareness and sensitivities.
Director Stephen Jarrett must be quite pleased with the production which warrants Helen Hayes nominations:
Best Actor: Jim Jorgensen
Best Actress: Claire Schoonover
Best Supporting Actor: David Bryan Jackson
Other crew members are Marianne Meadows, lighting; Edward Moser, production manager and sound; Kevin Laughon, properties (the QEII on the wall was loved); Laurel VanLandingham, stage manager; Salima Seale, assistant stage manager; and Emily Morrison, publicity chief and graphic designer.
What: Entertaining Mr. Sloane
When: 8 p.m., Thursday - Saturday, and 2 p.m., Saturday and Sunday now through December 13, 2015
Where: The Writer's Center, 4508 Walsh Road, Bethesda, MD 20815
How much: Tickets start at $25
Parking: Plentiful parking is nearby (scroll to bottom of link) and it's free at some lots on weekends.
For more information: 202-355-6330