This Week in Theater
by Joe Orton
Review by Rose Desena
Over the past few months, I have seen some excellent and thought provoking theater. I went from drug use in Trainspotting to a group of blind actors trying to save their home and club. This week I decided I needed to laugh more then I wanted to think. I needed fun, so I headed over to the opening of “What the Butler Saw” billed as “the Classic British farce”. It turned out to be a good pick and was just what I needed. However I think they need to change the name to “What the Cop Saw”. There isn’t a butler in sight but what is a British farce without the word butler in the title.
Dr. Prentice (Phillip Apoian) is a shrink at a fancy psychiatric clinic; he is also a philandering husband of a nymphomaniac (Maria Pavone), who had an affair in the linen closet with a blackmailing porter (Frank Weidner) who works at a historic hotel.
In the meantime the good doctor Prentice is interviewing Geraldine (Emily McLeod) for a position as his secretary, which is kind of sad because she can barely type. That’s ok because he is really looking for a sex slave. As part of the interview, poor Geraldine agrees to be examined by the doctor.
Before we know it, his wife stops by, the government health inspector Dr. Rance (Harold Dershimer) decides to review the clinic’s head doctor and the slimy porter wants a job.
Then a cop (Drew Fitzsimmons) is called to sort out a missing mental patient, who wasn’t really a patient at all but somehow was committed. Got it? I’ve noticed that farces always sound strange when a reviewer tries to explain the plot and for a good reason because it is a farce.
Frank Weidner (Porter) embraces his part and runs far over the top and abides by the golden rule of farces: once you go over the top stay there. His look alone will make you crack a smile. The stage is full of comical zany action that will have you shaking your head as you laugh out loud.
Maria Pavone and Phillip Apoian play well together, and they are very convincing as the kinky couple. Dr. Prentice can’t seem to get a minute to straighten out the mess he is in. He runs around behind everyone’s back hiding bright pink knickers in flowerpots and garbage cans. Don’t think about it just laugh.
Harold Dershimer (Inspector) has this proper British stuffiness about him, which adds a little sophistication to the craziness, but he is a bit quick to get someone in a strait jacket. The police officer (Drew Fitzsimmons) has a damaged finger that adds a self-mocking quality to this nutty caricature. Of course, no British farce is complete unless there is a cross dresser so I wasn’t too surprised at how good Weidner looked in heels. It’s all in good taste and very amusing.
My only complaint was the fake accents. It is not necessary and it takes away from the good acting. Also on this night, the lighting was off and gave the women on stage pancake white faces. Putting a play together is a lot of work, and I hate to see little things like that get in the way.
Ben Lupejukis (Director) does a good job directing this classic script and making it his own. It’s fun brainless entertainment that is sure to leave you happy. It is all wrapped up with good staging and actors who are obviously enjoying themselves.
Writer: Joe Orton
Cast: Phillip Apoian, Emily McLeod, Maria Pavone, Frank Weidner, Harold Dershimer, Drew Fitzsimmons
Director: Ben Lupejukis
Runs- Friday and Saturday @ 8pm and Sunday @ 2pm
Morgan-Wixson Theater, 2627 Pico Blvd, Santa Monica, Ca. 90405