Emily Taplin Boyd and David Sedgewick What the Butler Saw at The Gallery Players. Photo by Bella Muccari.
BOTTOM LINE: What the Butler Saw is full of mistaken identity, sly one-liners, deception and disarray. This 60s comedy failed to win me over completely with its slightly dated humor and slow-moving story, but it's worth attending for the hilarious second act and surprise ending.
I like comedies. I love all kinds of laughter - pee your pants squeals of suspense, bursts of loud laughter at slapstick comedy, snarky chuckles at low-brow humor, and the dry sarcasm that only warrants a soft "Hmph." I want all kinds of laughter when I see a comedy and What the Butler Saw does deliver...but not 100 percent. It has the dry British humor, the physical humor, the sexual innuendos and the zingers, but there is still room for improvement. The first act is slow, and the main character is a little dull. However, the outlandish supporting characters and plot twists make Butler enjoyable.
Butler opens with Dr. Prentice (David Sedgewick), a frazzled psychiatrist, interviewing a young and adorably clueless secretary, Geraldine Barclay (Emily Taplin Boyd), at his London office. He convinces her that her tragically funny past experiences warrant a physical exam. Naked. Once she removes her clothes, Mrs. Prentice (Nicole Fitzpatrick) enters half naked herself, dryly insulting her husband for his lack of sexual prowess, while unenthusiastically claiming herself victim of rape by a hotel busboy. This busboy then enters the scene with dirty pictures of the seemingly consenting Mrs. Prentice. It's even more chaos for Dr. Prentice as a State Inspector (Tom Cleary) shows up wanting to commit everyone involved to the mental hospital, and a Sergeant (Nat Cassidy) investigating a possible crime involving Miss Barclay. All the while Prentice tries to conceal, and then justify the reasons why there would be a naked woman inside his office, eventually creating a frenzy of mistaken identities and gender bending that involves the whole cast.
I appreciate the character work in this play. Cleary, as the stuffy and diagnosis-happy State Inspector is very funny – I love how he uses his voice, sensually enjoying every syllable that comes out of his mouth like a mad genius. I also enjoyed his weird sexual tension with Mrs. Prentice. Boyd is perfectly suited as Miss Barclay sweetly sounding the voice of right and reason to Dr. Prentice, regardless of the mess he put her in. However, Cassidy made me laugh the loudest, with his hilarious physical comedy during the second act.
The Gallery Players is a real treat for Brooklynites. They consistently mount affordable, high quality theater in Brooklyn, and it's totally worth the trip out there if you're not from the immediate area. They have an excellent season coming up. Is What the Butler Saw their best show of the season? Doubtful. Is it worth seeing for dry potty humor and deliciously offensive one liners? Totally.
(What the Butler Saw plays at The Gallery Players, 199 14th Street between 4th and 5th Avenues, Brooklyn, through September 26. 2010. Performances are Thursdays and Fridays at 8pm, Saturdays at 2pm & 8pm, and Sundays at 3pm. Tickets are $18 for adults, $14 for Seniors and Kiddies 12 and under. Tickets are available through their website thegalleryplayers.org, or by calling TheaterMania at 212.352.3101.)