Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

May 2, 2009

What the Butler Saw

Suffield Players, CT
through May 16, 2009
April 30, 2009
By Donna Bailey-Thompson

As it turns out, the butler didn't see anything; however, the audience gets an eyeful. How's that? According to a Wikipedia quote included in the program, "'What the Butler Saw' was a mutoscope reel, and an early example of softcore pornographic films. It depicted a scene of a woman partially undressing, as if 'the butler' was watching her through a keyhole. It was viewed by depositing a coin in a freestanding viewing machine, which then ran the presentation. The title of this feature became widely used in Britain as a generic term for devices and movies of this kind."

As performed by the venerable Suffield Players, "What the Butler Saw" is silly farce on speed that not only has the characters skittering in and out of doors but stripping down to their skivvies, swapping clothes, and when newly garbed, they have new sexual identities, not just once but multiple times. The mayhem is triggered by a randy psychiatrist whose seduction of a secretarial job applicant is thwarted by the surprise visit of his wife who's been indulging in some hanky-panky of her own. Nonsensical confusion is off to the races.

Leading this titillating romp is Dana T. Ring as the lecherous Dr. Prentice whose variety of facial expressions is exceeded only by his appropriately suave or jerky body language. He swigs courage from a bottle of gin housed in his desk top drawer. To protect his own peccadillos and grander lascivious aspirations, he gets identities so twisted that the exasperated clinic director Dr. Rance (Bruce Showalter) fumes the establishment is a lunatic asylum. "The room is full of naked men!" namely, Steve Wandzy as the wife's would-be toy and Larry Chiz as a policeman who assumes so many identities that he loses his own - along with his clothes. As Geraldine, the aspiring secretary, Rayah Martin is a curvaceous, not-so-dumb blonde, and as Mrs. Prentice, Dorrie Mitchell, puts her gorgeous legs to work charging about the stage in high heels. Director Philip Vetro corralled the perfect cast which he guided and drilled before turning them loose.