Courtesy of Nigel Maister

Running a madhouse has never seemed so fun. Unless, of course, that madhouse is your psychiatric office. Such is the premise of the UR International Theatre Program’s current production “What the Butler Saw.” The farce, written in 1969 by Joe Orton, is rooted in British culture of The Sixties, satirizing conservative culture and Freudian psychoanalysis.

The show begins benignly enough when the psychiatrist Dr. Prentice interviews a naïve young woman, Geraldine Barclay, for the position of secretary in his office. With ulterior motives in mind, the doctor convinces her that a medical exam is necessary. As she undresses, his criticizing wife walks into the office. From there, things go south, as Dr. Prentice tries to cover up his attempted indecency with Geraldine. A government psychiatrist, Dr. Rance, shows up for a surprise inspection and, upon finding her undressed, assumes Geraldine is insane and commits her. A youthful bellhop named Nicholas Beckett suddenly appears, hoping to blackmail Mrs. Prentice with nude photos he took of her while she stayed at a seedy hotel. Eventually Sgt. Match, a police officer, shows up in search of Nicholas for a different crime, but then begins investigating the sudden disappearance of Geraldine. All the while, Dr. Prentice is running around attempting to salvage his practice without admitting his infidelity.

Kathryn Loveless, a senior, does a splendid job in the role of Geraldine Barclay, adopting a ditzy voice for the character to match Geraldine’s overly trusting nature. But she is not afraid to show Geraldine’s growth in the play, eventually using that voice to demand respect from the character’s captors. Nor does Loveless allow Geraldine to lose her dignity for even a moment, even after she is committed to the ward. Meanwhile, junior Halle Burns aptly portrays Mrs. Prentice’s deterioration into hysteria. At first self-controlling and constantly deriding her husband, she slowly begins to reflect the madness around her.

Junior Michael Tamburrino smartly portrays Nicholas Beckett and garners the audience’s sympathy when Sgt. Match arrives, despite the fact that he is a criminal. From then on, viewers root for Nicholas, hoping the policeman will not figure him out. Sgt. Match is well-portrayed by sophomore Alberto Carrillo Casas, who brings out the character’s buffoonery without compromising the authenticity of his position of power.

The commanding presence of Dr. Rance is felt from the moment he enters the stage, thanks to the strength of junior Daniel Mensel. Not once does he allow Dr. Rance to seem defeated, even when he is continually proven wrong. Instead, Mensel pushes forward, yelling above the rest of the frantic crowd.

Ian Von Fange, a sophomore, performs as Dr. Prentice with a clear understanding of the character. At first Dr. Prentice is awkward around the decidedly invigorating Geraldine, but as matters keep getting worse, his anxiety increases with every drink he downs to subdue it. Von Fange makes sure, however, that throughout all the antics, Dr. Prentice remains the only sane character in the show, misguided by his efforts to uphold traditional values.

The cross-shaped office set, designed by Tilly Grimes, is perfectly suited to the action, providing long corridors for the practically continuous action. With the audience placed in the corners of the cross, it is hard not to reach out and touch the actors as they run by. It is unfortunate, however, that the exterior of the set, facing the audience, is left unfinished; it breaks the illusion of closeness.

Director Nigel Maister must have had his hands full with the unusual set and with the doors opening and closing constantly, but not once was the tension lost between the actors and the action. Throughout the hilarity, the cast and crew produce “What the Butler Saw” with a concerted effort to create a work that never gets tired and keeps the laughs coming. Be prepared to see some skin, keep an eye out for the excessive drinking, and never stop asking yourself, “What’s in the box?”

Catch “What the Butler Saw” before it closes on Saturday, Oct. 25.

Libbey is a member of

the class of 2016.


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