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NEW REVIEW: Joe Orton’s final plays (before he was bludgeoned to death at 34 by his professionally jealous lover) were farces that crowned him master of the form. So much so that his first full-length play, Entertaining Mr. Sloane (the story of a gorgeous young layabout who sets out to hustle a frumpy woman and her dapper brother) is often presented in arch farcical tones, though its dark and violent overtones mirror the playwright’s life and early death. In this very satisfying production, director Stan Zimmerman underscores Orton’s scathing wit by meeting the play’s dramatic potential, by rendering the humor blacker by the moment.

Most remarkable is Olivia d’Abo, who discards her natural beauty in favor of frowziness as Kath, a 40-ish woman desperate for affection, especially from 20-year-old Sloane. D’Abo provides the necessary humor but which comes tightly woven into a fully developed character. Kath’s brother Ed is brought to hilarious yet sad life by Ian Buchanan as a tough-guy businessman secretly as hot for Sloane as his sister is. Their ancient Da, in a delightfully tragic performance by Robin Gammell, is the only one whose lack of libido allows him to see through the boy’s tricks. As the title character, Emrhys Cooper lacks the experience of his veteran co-stars, but his coy easiness on stage and physical attractiveness makes him the consummate object of their attention. The look of the production is perfectly pitched by set dresser Joel Daavid and costume designer Kevin King, who successfully balance the drabness of Kath’s world with the kind of poshness that Ed and Sloane are also able to inhabit.

The Actors Company
916-A N. Formosa Ave., Hlywd
Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 6:30 p.m.; thru July 24
www.Plays411.com
(323) 960-7863

(Tom Provenzano)

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