Blue Room comedy blends sex and laughter
Rape, incest, alcoholism, nymphomania, transvestitism, psychosis: Strung together, the words hardly evoke what one thinks of as the typical themes of comedy. But in the hands of playwright Joe Orton and the six-member cast of What the Butler Saw, these themes are woven into a dizzyingly hilarious sex farce that repeatedly jostles the funny bone while simultaneously tweaking the nose of any latent morality that may reside in its audience.
Its dialogue suffused with the topsy-turvy wit of Oscar Wilde and its plot more complicated than the most convoluted P.G. Wodehouse comedy of errors, What the Butler Saw challenges our concepts of propriety by forcing us to laugh as we ponder the absurdity of applying moral judgment to imaginary characters.
Director Paul Stout has chosen wisely and well in gathering his cast. Erik Pedersen as the beleaguered Dr. Prentice exhibits just the right degree of besotted Victorian sexual repression. Amber Miller as his nymphomaniacal, alcoholic wife delivers regal haughtiness, hysterical madness and besotted sexuality in equally hilarious measure. Shanna Walsh as Geraldine gives a multifaceted performance that never falters in its portrayal of innocence, whether clad in bra and panties or a bellboy’s uniform. Alaric Acosta as the rapacious bellboy, Nick, provides the perfect counterbalance to Geraldine’s innocence. Dylan Latimer as the drugged, befuddled and cross-dressed policeman, Sgt. Match, meets the challenge of providing the comedy relief in a farce—no mean feat. And, rounding out the cast, David Lindstrom as institutional inspector Dr. Rance gives a performance that balances rationality and madness on the point of a hypodermic needle.
I will not burden you with plot summary; just be aware that based on script alone this is probably the funniest show I’ve seen in Chico since the Blue Room’s production of Ionesco’s The Bald Soprano a few years back, and, based on cast and quality of production, What the Butler Saw rates second to none.