A View from the CliffThe Secret Theatre presents 'Ortonesque' – QNS.com

A View from the Cliff
The Secret Theatre presents ‘Ortonesque’



           The Secret Theatre continues to emerge as an oasis of creativity amid the cold steel girders of Long Island City. Currently, a tribute to irreverent British playwright Joe Orton is on a limited run at 44-02 23rd Street. Consisting of four separate plays, “Ortonesque” offers not-for-the-kids entertainment that combines macabre humor, farce and bawdy British slapstick. 

            On Friday evening, Orton’s “What the Butler Saw” played to a receptive audience. The comedy includes Actors Equity professionals along with talented hopefuls.  Veteran performer Bob Jaffe easily convinces the audience of his intentions as an extremely lecherous therapist named Dr. Prentice. Jessica Marie Smith as Mrs. Prentice is far from naïve, accusing or encouraging every man on stage of committing some antisocial act.

            As the plot thickens, each character initiates or is victimized by an outrageously impossible situation. The not-very-subtle innuendos would have shocked audiences a few decades ago. But now the gender reversals and risqué situations merely add to the humor. 

            Lovely Kimberley Miller plays Geraldine Barclay, an unbelievably naïve secretarial interviewee. She skillfully remains wide-eyed despite the unabashed activity swirling around her.

            Matt Swanston, as calculating, then confounded, Nicholas Beckett, and Kyle Masteller, as the hapless police sergeant, are in excellent shape. This becomes hilariously undeniable to the audience.  The costume changes alone require extreme physical fitness.

       Representing the straight-laced British government is Dr. Rance (Greg Petroff).  His performance is brilliantly terrifying. Not as an enforcer of the law, but as someone who is on the verge of breaking it.

            Kudos to director McKenna Dabbs, assistant director Laura Brienza and Thomas Klenert (costumes, props) whose professional skills provide order in an intentionally chaotic satire.

            Running concurrently, just a few feet away, a completely different production is in progress. The troupe’s founder Richard Mazda has produced a thought-provoking version of William Shakespeare’s “The Taming of the Shrew” directed by Bridget Leak.  But your visit to the big and little secret theatres is not complete without watching the remaining Orton projects.  Look for the dark satire “Loot” directed by Ken Hailey. Attend “The Ruffian on the Stairs” (directed by Thom Brown) and “Entertaining Mr. Sloane” (directed by Richard Mazda).

            Call 718-392-0722 or surf to www.secrettheatre.com.  The troupe in residence, The Queens Players, promises a prolific season at this venue. As always, save me a seat on the aisle.

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