Theatre Banshee’s “What the Butler Saw” is a high-spirited British
farce delivered with impeccable comic timing in its run at the Gene
Bua Theatre in Burbank.
While all six actors give outstanding performances, the clear star
is playwright Joe Orton, bad boy of 1960s London theater. Mark Twain
once wrote, “The difference between the perfect word and the almost
perfect word is the difference between lightning and the lightning
Orton has created an electrical storm of repartee with the
accuracy of Shakespeare and the wit of Oscar Wilde. There is nary a
butler to be found in this story of mistaken identity and sexual
Its title derives from a nickelodeon peep show where, for a
shilling, regular folk could peek into the secret, slightly racy
world of the elite. Director Sean Branney of Glendale pulls no
punches in his depiction of the tawdry underbelly of British
Matt Foyer stands out as the neurotic Dr. Prentice. And MacKerrin
Kelly, as his wife, shows a real flair for comedy. The physical
pratfalls and compromising positions the actors pull off are
hilarious and choreographed to perfection.
Not one cue, verbal or physical, was missed. The dialogue is
delivered with delightfully unrelenting speed and usually clearly
understood. Unfortunately, Dr. Rance, played by Noah Wagner, tended
to muffle his lines. A real shame because the part is so juicy.
The set was disappointingly sparse. Typical of a psychiatric
clinic, but it could’ve used a vintage medical poster or two. All in
all, this preposterous and joyous spoof of psychiatric academia is as
appropriate today as it was 35 years ago and performed with a
vitality rare in modern theater.