Playwright Joe Orton was the bad boy of the theater during the Swinging Sixties. His specialty was dark comedy – he wrote this one in 1964. It starts like a farce, as a young man rents a room, then gets poked in the upper thigh with a barbecue fork. The landlady offers to dress the wound, and asks him to take down his pants.
“Don’t be embarrassed, Mr. Sloane. I have the upbringing a nun would envy, and that’s the truth.”
Sloan is a magnetic young man with full lips – like Mick Jagger. His sardonic smile hints at hedonism, and perhaps a malicious sense of fun. When the landlady’s brother finds the empty pants, he worries about what his sister has started.
“Well you have the trousers off him already, I see… Don’t let me down, darling. Where is he?”
“Well go fetch him.”
“But he hurt his leg.”
“I want to see him.”
“Go and fetch him!”
The anger is played straight, to say nothing of the random sexual opportunism and nasty manipulation that follow. This is an outrageous dark comedy in which everyone wears a different shade of black. And the B Street actors sometimes make pious statements with their mouth while doing the opposite with their body. It makes for an unsettling but funny show that’s a little bit dangerous – the polar opposite of predictable feel-good holiday entertainment.
“Entertaining Mr. Sloane” plays at the B Street Theatre through December 12th.