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EMAV Review: LVLT's 'Butler' is a fast moving farce

★★★☆☆ - Satisfying

Las Vegas Little Theatre (LVLT) is presenting a satisfying three star production of What the Butler Saw, by the English playwright Joe Orton, on its mainstage at 3920 Schiff Drive through December 17th, part of its 40 Anniversary Season as an all-volunteer organization and southern Nevada's oldest community theatre.

Dr. Prentice, a psychiatric doctor in an exclusive private clinic in the country, is attempting to interview (and seduce) an attractive would-be secretary, Geraldine. Unwittingly surprised by his wife, he hides the girl. The affairs multiply as Mrs. Prentice, being seduced and blackmailed by young bellhop Nicholas Beckett, has promised him the secretarial post. When a government inspector arrives, chaos, underpants, and cross-dressing lead the charge. The London premiere at the Queen's Theatre in 1969 starred Coral Browne and Sir Ralph Richardson. The New York production later won the Obie Award for Best Foreign Play of the season.

The title of the play comes from an Edwardian peepshow, a type of entertainment in which people viewed pictures, often erotic, through a small lens. The implication behind the title is one of voyeurism and implies that the audience will be put in the position of voyeurs, surreptitiously watching other people’s lives. What the Butler Saw also looks at authority, particularly at the authority of psychiatrists and considers the question of madness, of who is sane and who is insane.

What the Butler Saw premièred at the Queen's Theatre in London in March, 1969, and was Joe Orton's final play and the second to be performed after his death, following Funeral Games in 1968. It's easy to see why directors choose such farces, which combine clever language with ridiculous situations and passing storms of satire aimed at cherished institutions. But that doesn't make them easy to do well.

Making his directorial debut under the wing of Walter Niejadlik, Casper Collins keeps his talented company of actors on their toes in this fast moving farce. The entire ensemble articulated their British accents most effectively and consistently throughout the evening: Steve McMillan (as Dr. Prentice), Heather Guernsey (Geraldine Barclay), Trina Colon (Mrs. Prentice), Michael Blair (Nicholas Beckett), Rob Kastil (Dr. Rance), and Chris Davies (Sergeant Match).

LVLT’s production team continued its quality work in successfully creating a physical and theatrical world – in this examination room in a private clinic -- that enabled the actors to tell the playwright’s story: Ron Lindblom (Set Design), Ginny Adams (Lighting Designer), and Rose Scarborough (Costume Designer).

Playwright Joe Orton was considered the direct successor to Oscar Wilde, George Bernard Shaw, and Noel Coward -- whose characters are never lost for an intelligent, articulate phrase. Their "comedies of bad manners" had a penchant for caustic commentary on dubious human behavior – particularly in the battle of the sexes. His witty dialogue offers a criticism and exploration of society’s standards. Entertaining as well as enlightening, What the Butler Saw is today considered a contemporary classic.

Orton’s public career spanned only three years (1964–1967), but his work made a lasting mark on the international stage and was considered the rising star of an "alternative British intelligentsia". His first stage play, Entertaining Mr. Sloane, was a huge success while his second, Loot, won the coveted Evening Standard award for Best Play.

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