In Wednesday's review of "Entertaining Mr. Sloane," the names of two actors were transposed. David Hornstein played Kemble, the father, and Tom Loftis played Ed, the brother. The production is at the Source Theatre, 1809 14th St. NW.
ENTERTAINING MR. SLOANE by Joe Orion; directed by Janet Stanford; scenery by Hugh McKay; with Theresa Aceves, John Jacobsen, David Hornstein and Tom Loftis. At the Studio Theatre through Sept. 21.
"Entertaining Mr. Sloane" had made a name for itself even before play-wright Joe Orton was murdered by his male lover and thus catapulted into the countercultural heavens.
Since Orton's grisly death in 1967, he has won critical recognition as a contemporary Noel Coward or Oscar Wilde. And his most celebrating play has been given a tidy little production at the Source Theatre on 14th Street, with smart performances by three talented young local actors (Theresa Aceves, John Jacobsen and David Hornstein) and one talented older local actor (Tom Loftis). Director Janet Stanford and her cast have done such a capable and hertfelt job, in fact, as to cast a chilly shadow on the Orton/"Sloane" reputation. If these players can't summon up the aura of Wilde and Coward (or of Moliere and Congreve, who are mentioned in the director's program notes), maybe the aura just isn't summonable.
The title character (played by Jacobsen with reasonable abandon and many Jimmy Carter-like grins) is a type who frequently pops up in plots with a gay flavor. He is the ambisexual and other-wise aimless young man who becomes the object of everyone's affection. In this plot, he rents a room from a fluttery, fawning woman (another not-unprecedented persona, but redeemed by Aceves' graceful performance). She in turn has a brother (a briefcase-toting junior executive, archly played by Hornstein) with his own designs on the young man of the title.
At the beginning of the play, Sloane and his landlady engage in some agreeable flirting, spiced by lively dialogue. "When I was 15," she tells him wonderful false modesty, "I knew the map of Africa better than my own body."
And the bickering between her and her brother has its moments, too. "What are you able to give him?" she asks skeptically.
"The world!" he answers, not missing a beat.
But the dialogue is generally more bland than Wilde, and when the plot goes into its final moves, we find ourselves facing yet another grim climax incongruously tacked onto a piece of froth. The landlady's father looms large in all this contriving, which is doubly unfortunate because Loftis, the actor who plays him, deserved a better role.
Still, this is a pleasant show, and a good introduction to Orton for those who want to be introduced. And although Aceves and Hornstein seem a trifle young for their characters, this is another impressive production by the Source Theatre Company. Its reputation is intact and growing.