Entertainment » Theatre

What the Butler Saw

by Richard Rosario
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Monday Dec 4, 2017
What the Butler Saw

"What the Butler Saw," is at tale of seduction, blackmail, misdirection, wardrobe swapping, and mistaken identity in a sophisticated, silly hybrid comedy. However, there are no butlers in the show. Rather, the title implies voyeurism, and the audience are the voyeurs.

By the standards of its day, the late 1960s, the play was shocking. By today's standards, it is considered quite tame. Nevertheless, the material is not appropriate for younger viewers.

The play is split into two acts, but the action never stops. Geraldine Barclay, (Heather Guernsey) an attractive young woman, applies for the post of secretary at Dr. Prentice's (Steve McMillan) psychiatric office. Ms. Barclay is without kin because her stepmother, her only living relative, recently died in an explosion also causing severe damage to a Winston Churchill statue.

In an attempt to seduce her, Dr. Prentice convinces her to undress. Enter Mrs. Prentice (Trina Colon). Dr. Prentice tries to hide his indiscretion from his wife, secreting Ms. Barclay behind a curtained exam room. Almost everyone takes a turn behind the curtain in a state of undress or cross-dress.

Meanwhile, Mrs. Prentice is trying to cover up being blackmailed by bellhop, Nicholas Beckett (Michael Blair). To appease Nicholas, Mrs. Prentice offers him the job of part-time secretary for her husband. Mrs. Prentice tells Mr. Prentice a tale of attempted rape at the hotel as a cover for her infidelity with Nicholas. The attempted sexual assault is her excuse for wearing only a slip under her coat when she arrived.

Matters become even more confused when a Sergeant March (Chris Davies) arrives looking for the bellhop who is a suspect in sexual misconduct of his own involving young female students. He is soon joined by Dr. Rance (Rob Kastil) who is sent by the government to inspect Dr. Prentice's practice.

To conceal his misdeeds, Dr. Prentice tries to pass off Ms. Barclay as the bellhop, Nicholas as Ms. Barclay, and the police officer as a drugged patient who he found naked in the garden which explains why he is wearing Ms. Barclay's dress.

Dr. Rance projects elaborate psychosexual theories for every debauchery he witnesses, and several he imagines including nymphomania, buggery, transvestism, lesbianism, incest, and gender-bending. He intends to document all he observes and imagines to publish a best-selling book.

The play itself begins slowly. The dialogue is swift and peppered with double entendres, but the lines themselves are rather dry British humor. There were only a few chuckles in the first twenty minutes, however, the laughs build to a frenzied pace throughout the rest of the show.

The play is truly a team effort. The entire ensemble delivers. It would be easy for the actors to overreach too early in the play. However, they exhibit restraint and control allowing the scene to build, rather than starting the emotion to high, a credit to them, and the director (Casper Collins). All the actors delivered believable English accents.

Guernsey is a perfect mix of innocence and self-righteousness. McMillan skillfully creates a lecherous doctor who is unreasonably convinced he is competent. Kastil expertly portrays a government inspecting doctor who believes himself to be morally and professionally superior to Dr. Prentis. He is convinced he is an authority on all psychiatric matters.

Colon is a frenetic mix of nymphomaniac, dissatisfied wife, and accomplished liar. She is a mixture of shrew and seductress. She is hilariously convincing when she questions her own sanity.

Blair is a dexterous dilettante, alternating between blackmailer, bisexual hustler, and sexual offender. Davies rounds out the ensemble with plenty of comical physical humor. He appears to be the only competent professional. However, he soon joins the mayhem after being drugged by Dr. Prentice so Nicholas can steal his uniform. The entire cast executes the mayhem with aplomb. My only criticism is the restraint in some of the sexual situations, and the omission of the Winston Churchill statue's penis being held aloft at the climax.

The set design (Ron Lindblom) is clean and crisp. The examination room behind the curtain is authentic for a psychiatric facility of its day. Costuming (Rose Scarborough) is spot on as well. Lighting (Ginny Adams) employs a strobe light, and gunshot sound effects are used late in the second act.

"What the Butler Saw," runs through December 17 on the Mainstage at the Las Vegas Little Theatre, 3920 Schiff Dr., Las Vegas, NV 89103. For information or tickets, call 702-362-7996 or visit www.LVLT.org

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