ON THE RADAR: What the Butler Saw
Harvard Graduate Students $12.00; Harvard Affiliates $12.00; Students & Seniors $12.00. Tickets available at the Harvard Box Office.
Yesterday evening at the Leverett House Old Library, the Leverett House Drama Society presented the premiere of What the Butler Saw, a celebrated comedy by Joe Orton that won an Obie Award for Best Foreign Play.
This two hour long show tells the hilarious story of Dr. Prentice and the many people that come through his office at his private, upscale psychiatric clinic. The plot thickens as Dr. Prentice tries to seduce his secretary only to be surprised in the act by his wife, who is herself having an affair. Dr. Prentice’s compulsive lying creates an intricate web of mistaken identities and a comic atmosphere of chaos in which discombobulated characters falsely accuse and misunderstand each other.
However, the witty script and ironic denouement of the plot create a play that is about much more than just the entertaining appearance of drugs, guns, and a stripping secretary.
“I didn’t want an empty bubble of humor,” says Andrew Arthur, who is the director of the play as well as a non-resident tutor at Winthrop House.
“It’s a dark comedy,” he says. “I picked the play because I was looking for something with substance that could also be entertaining and work on multiple levels.”
Many of Joe Orston’s first plays attacked the British government, medical establishment, and upper classes of the conservative society of his time.
Orston, who came from a lower-class background, voiced his anger through his “incredible skill for writing farce” said Arthur, who read nearly a dozen plays before selecting this one.
“There’s so much there, I just had to put it on,” says Arthur, who has directed and produced several plays in the past, including Noises Off and Whose Wife Is It, Anyway?
“The issues of his day are issues of today,” Arthur says. “I thought [the play] would be relevant to the students and public.”
Although the comedy does have a promising plot, the play did encounter a few minor difficulties, such as an unusually short and disjointed rehearsal period.
The casting of actors for the six available roles also proved problematic because a low number of Harvard students auditioned. Two students from the New England Conservatory have, therefore, been selected to act in the play.
When asked about these challenges, Philip R. Goldfard ’08, who plays Dr. Prentice, says that the two New England Conservatory students were “very committed to the arts.”
“It’s going to be really good,” he says. “We’re going to be very ready.”