There’s only nine performances left of English playwright Joe Orton‘s 1969 farce, What The Butler Saw, at Center Theatre Group’s Mark Taper Forum, located in DTLA’s Music Center. I saw the play a couple of weeks ago on its official opening night and without a doubt it was one of the most hilarious plays I’ve ever seen–I absolutely LOVED it. The fun starts off with a psychiatrist (played by Charles Shaughnessy of The Nanny fame) trying to seduce his potential new secretary (Sarah Manton). After talking her into getting undressed, his wife (played by the incredible Frances Barber who hilariously steals each and every scene she’s in) busts into his office and mistakenly thinks the secretary’s dress is hers and takes it with her and from that point on hilarity and hijinx ensues as the doctor digs himself deeper into covering up his indsicretcions. The play is so witty–packed with thinly veiled sexual references, mistaken identities, confusion and madcap plot twists that had the entire audience in stitches–plus there’s full frontal male nudity action by cutie Angus McEwan (pictured below–he plays the bellhop trying to blackmail the doctor’s wife) that definitely should not be missed!
The next day I was doing some research on playwright Joe Orton, who somehow I hadn’t heard of before–shame on me. He died at the young age of 34 back in 1967 after his jealous male lover Kenneth Halliwell bludgeoned him to death at their London home, and then committed suicide. That grim story was turned into the subject of the 1987 film Prick Up Your Ears by critically acclaimed director Stephen Frears, which featured Gary Oldman as Orton and Alfred Molina as Halliwell. The film also stars Frances Barber, who just so happens to be in What The Butler Saw!
You can get tickets to What The Butler Saw on the Center Theatre Group’s website, but you must hurry since there’s only a handful of performances left before it closes on December 21st. I seriously can’t recommend it enough, the sassy humor was totally right up my alley and has now inspired me to check out more of Orton’s work, who still has audiences laughing almost fifty years later since his shocking death–Orton’s legacy and talent is easily outlasting his tragically cut short life.
Don’t you love farce? It’s your typical boy-meets-girl story. Only the boy is a wily psychoanalyst married to a nymphomaniac. And the girl is his secretary…once she passes a not-so-routine physical. Mix in a little blackmail, a lot of sexual innuendo, a government inspector, a lusty bellboy and voilà!
What The Butler Saw is a classic comic masterpiece that has all the ingredients of a thoroughly enjoyable romp: manic action, twisting plotlines, mistaken identities, slamming doors, disappearing clothes, and, above all, Joe Orton’s subversive wit, breakneck dialogue and outrageous lack of appropriateness.
PHOTOS | CRAIG SCHWARTZ FOR CENTER THEATRE GROUP