Emryhs Cooper, Olivia d'Abo, and Ian Buchanan
in Entertaining Mr. Sloane
(Courtesy of the company)
Emryhs Cooper, Olivia d'Abo, and Ian Buchanan
in Entertaining Mr. Sloane
(Courtesy of the company)
Entertaining Mr. Sloane, now at the Actors Company, misses much of the humor of Joe Orton's first bleak comedy. The wildly funny play contains lines that cut like a knife, but director Stan Zimmerman's production is far from a laugh riot.

The 1964 work tells of a street hood -- the titular Mr. Sloane (Emrhys Cooper) -- who cons his way into a family. He believes he has the upper hand, but the mousy Kath (Oliva d'Abo) and her affluent, gay brother Ed (Ian Buchanan) eventually have the boy completely under their control.

Buchanan's character is all bluster, bullying his sister, and leering at the youthful border like the wolf he is, while d'Abo plays against type as a dowdy but hypersexual old maid who sinks her fangs into this young hustler. Dressed in a frumpy fat suit, a hideous wig, and possessing a harpy high pitched whine, her outer façade is one of weakness. But when the cards are on the table, she's not afraid to bluff.

As Kemp, Robin Gammell carries off the trickiest role: a tired old man barely able to raise a cane, but not afraid to stand up to someone physically threatening. All three of these actors have the chops to carry off this dark play of seduction, murder and other machinations, as each displays a knack for the underhanded humor.

Sadly, they are all crippled by a weak performance from the handsome Cooper. His line readings are stilted and unnatural, he mumbles his words too often, and he speaks with his hands. The few moments that he actually sets aflame are when his character's façade snaps and his rage takes over.

Set designer Joel Daavid creates an appropriately drab setting, with bland couches covered with doilies and quilts. The house represents the lack of color in its inhabitants' existences, hence why they dive quickly into the leather-wearing, tight-shirted pretty boy. The costumes by Kevin King and the wigs by Eusebio Aynaga assist with that visual metaphor.

The misfires within the production also have a lot to do with pacing issues. And some of the problems can simply be attributed to a lack of sufficient rehearsal, with actors tripping over their lines and even the lighting person having a slippery finger.