The mysterious visitor has long been stock-in-trade for theater. So have dysfunctional families. They intersect in "Entertaining Mr. Sloan", currently playing at HotCity Theatre, and the result may well be the occasional gasp. But then one expects nothing less from the work of Joe Orton. The cadre of Angry Young Men of British arts were a decade or so before his work reached the public, but Orton is nothing if not angry, cocking a snook at us all.
We begin with a woman who's taking a lodger into her home, a much younger man. But soon it becomes apparent that she's a little too eager. Just don't tell her brother - he wouldn't understand. The set, what I suspect the woman would refer to as a lounge, or living room, is nigh-on perfect, slightly worn, not very comfortable, with aging efforts at elegance, lacking only what used to be called whatnots.
The small, well-chosen cast begins with the title character, played by Paul Cereghino. Watch him watching those around him, scanning for weaknesses. Lavonne Byers, as Cath, the landlady, manages air-headedness, needy and lustful simultaneously. Her brother, slick and commanding, is Michael James Reed, who hides his own secrets better than the others. Bill Grivna plays the father of these two loopy siblings. He's a doddering firebrand, in one case almost literally, and restrains himself (nobly) from stealing the show.
The play, Orton's first, opened in 1964 in London and must have been shocking at the time. The script is mostly a strong one, although the ending seems rather frayed. Still, a very worthwhile theater experience.
Entertaining Mr. Sloan
Kranzberg Arts Center
through September 21