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WHAT THE BUTLER SAW 

Thursday, Jan 10 2008
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Risqué and relevant when it first premiered, Joe Orton's 1969 lampoon of the British mental-health system — and of the repressed society in which it flourished — is today more of an antique curio that resembles an episode from The Benny Hill Show. A lecherous psychiatric hack named Dr. Prentice (Carl J. Johnson) persuades a naive young job applicant (Kelsey Wedeen) to remove her clothes. When his wife (Carolyn Hennesy) arrives home unexpectedly, he scurries to conceal the woman's garments, stranding her naked in an examining cubicle. A fatuous medical bureaucrat (Peter Altschuler) arrives; to save face, Prentice passes the bewildered would-be secretary off as a patient, then stands by passively while she's drugged by this zealous and equally lust-filled government bureaucrat. The ribald antics that follow involve full frontal nudity and a trio of confused cross-dressed characters, including a bare-buttocked bobby — a genuinely hilarious moment. The production's main problem — as with so many other American productions of British farce — is its failure, under the direction of Kiff Scholl, to nail down the mindset behind the burlesque. Both Johnson and Altschuler master the mechanics — if not the sensibility — of their roles skillfully. Hennesy's middle-aged sexpot, however, borders on caricature, while Wedeen's naif never gets much beyond the strictures of sketch comedy. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m. Starts: Feb. 7. Continues through March 1, 2008

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