AISLE SAY San Francisco


by Joe Orton
Directed by Amy Glazer
Presented by Marin Theatre Company
Boyer Theatre
397 Miller Ave., Mill Valley, CA / Phone (415) 388-5208

Reviewed by Judy Richter

A misguided attempt to seduce the applicant for a secretarial job leads a psychiatrist into far more trouble than he bargained for in Joe Orton's "What the Butler Saw." Marin Theatre Company is staging the 40-year-old farce under the direction of Amy Glazer. She usually can be relied on for sure-handed direction, but this time there are some misfires, even with a first-rate cast.

Some of the problem may lie with the play itself. Intended to skewer authority in general and psychiatry in particular, it has lost some of its bite over the years. Some of the problem also may lie with this production, where the comic timing isn't always as sharp as it should be in the first act. However, it's much improved in the second act as the situation veers more and more out of control.

The action is set in the examination room and office of a London mental hospital in 1969. The hospital's director, Dr. Prentice (Charles Shaw Robinson), has ordered the job applicant, Geraldine Barclay (Cat Walleck), to remove her clothing on the pretext of needing to examine her. His plan is disrupted by the unexpected arrival of his wife, Mrs. Prentice (Stacy Ross), complaining that she was assaulted by a bellhop at the hotel where she was staying. Said bellhop, Nicholas Beckett (Rowan Brooks), arrives with her suitcase. To add to the confusion, Dr. Rance (Andy Murray), who apparently comes from a government agency, barges in to investigate complaints of mismanagement.

As Dr. Prentice tries to keep anyone from discovering his attempted peccadillo, everything goes awry with Rance diagnosing neuroses and psychoses in almost everyone and various characters hiding or assuming disguises. Even a police officer, Sgt. Match (Kevin Rolston), gets caught up in the craziness.

MTC has captured the play's atmosphere well with Eric Flatmo's clinical set, complemented by Kurt Landisman's lighting. Fumiko Bielefeldt's costumes are right out of the late '60s, especially the mini dresses for both women and the white go-go boots for Ross. Ted Crimy's sound design evokes the era with music by the Beatles and their contemporaries before the curtain rises and during intermission.

Despite whatever shortcomings the play and production might have. they still have their pleasures in some of Orton's satire and in the acting. Murray is annoyingly officious as Rance seems to suspect the worst in everyone. Ross is the master of the double take, and everyone else contributes to the amusement.

For More Information
Return to Home Page