‘What the Butler Saw’ begins tonight at NJ Shakespeare Fest

I can’t believe that Joe Orton’s last play, the once controversial farce “What The Butler Saw,” is his first work ever to be produced by the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey. Performances begin tonight in Madison, N.J.
I would have sworn I’d seen an Orton work there … wait a minute. I’m thinking of Orton’s “Loot, staged at McCarter Theater in Princeton directed by the incredibly inventive and exciting director Daniel Fish in 2002.
That must be what’s  confusing me. Paul Mullins, another the incredibly inventive and exciting director (as well as actor), is staging the farce here. First performed in 1969,  it shocked audiences.  Nudity and extramarital affairs probably had something to do with that.

I expect a novel approach from Mullins, whose staging of “Richard III” last season was infused with humor I didn’t know existed in this history play by Shakespeare. And his handling of Ionesco’s “Rhinoceros” (1959) with a post-World War II feel of extreme consumerism and conformity in fashion remains memorable.

“Rhinoceros” is said to be Ionesco’s response and criticism of  the sudden upsurge of Fascism and Nazism prior to Word War II while exploring the themes of conformity, culture, mass movements, mob mentality, philosophy and morality.
Joe Orton was an English playwright and author. His public career was short but prolific, lasting from 1964 until his death three years later. During this brief period he shocked, outraged, and amused audiences with his scandalous black comedies. (PHOTO: Wikipedia)
Joe Orton was an English playwright and author. His public career was short but prolific, lasting from 1964 until his death three years later. During this brief period he shocked, outraged, and amused audiences with his scandalous black comedies. (PHOTO: Wikipedia)

“Set in a veritable madhouse, Joe Orton’s masterpiece farce provides the perfect comedic response to our current world, one in which we find ourselves questioning our sanity or that of others on a daily basis,” said Shakespeare Theater  Artistic Director Bonnie J. Monte.

I know you know what we’re both thinking right now about seemingly sudden changes in our society these past few months.
“Theater is a mirror, a sharp reflection of society,” said Yasmina Reza, whose plays include “Art” and “God of Carnage.”
 Tickets for “What the Butler Saw” are available at  ShakespeareNJ.org or call the box office at 973-408-5600. Performances at the F.M. Kirby Shakespeare Theatre on the Drew University campus, 36 Madison Ave, Madison, New Jersey. Patrons 30 and younger can purchase $30 tickets with valid ID, subject to availability. $15 student rush tickets are available 30 minutes prior to each performance, with a valid student ID A limited number of Pay What You Can tickets on a first come, first serve basis also are available.

Here’s the scoop

(The following is from the STNJ press release)

The Cast:

John Hutton is making his STNJ debut in the role of Doctor Rance. For the last 30 years, Mr. Hutton has been a member of The Denver Center Theater Company. He has also performed at The Colorado Shakespeare Festival, The Hudson Stage Company, The Mint Theatre and various other theaters throughout the country. Film and television credits include Stephen Spielberg’s Lincoln, PBS’s Murder of a President, and the miniseries Nobel.
Peter Simon Hilton, who will be playing Doctor Prentice, is entering his second season at The Shakespeare Theatre, after last season’s production of A Child’s Christmas in Wales.Peter’s other credits include the national tours of Les Misérables, Oklahoma!, and Frost/Nixon; and productions at The Denver Center, Alabama Shakespeare Festival, Colorado Shakespeare Festival, Drury Lane, Gateway Playhouse, among others. He is a United States Board member of Shakespeare’s Globe in London and a Genie Award-winning playwright.
Vanessa Morosco is making her Main Stage debut after playing Titania and Hippolyta in A Midsummer Night’s Dream on the Outdoor Stage this summer. She plays Mrs. Prentice. She has performed regionally with the Colorado Shakespeare Festival, New York Classical Theatre, and the Folger Shakespeare Theatre. Her film and television credits include I, Witness and Isn’t it Delicious.
Returning to The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey for his second production this season is Jeffrey M. Bender, who will be playing Sergeant Match. This production marks his 18th overall season with the company. Select recent company credits include: The Merchant of Venice, director of last season’s Outdoor Stage production The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged) (revised), Love’s Labour’s Lost, Much Ado About Nothing, The Alchemist, and The Tempest. Broadway credits include A Time to Kill at The Golden Theatre and Cymbeline at Lincoln Center.
Allison Layman returns for her third season and will be taking on the role of Geraldine Barclay. Her previous company credits include The Comedy of Errors, Timon of Athens and Shakespeare LIVE!. She has performed regionally at The Cape Playhouse, Cleveland Playhouse, The Old Globe, and Huntingdon Theatre. Television credits include the role of Shelby on Hulu’s The Path.
Returning for his second season is Robbie Simpson, who will be playing Nicholas Beckett. Mr. Simpson’s recent New York credits include the original cast of Afterglow. He has also performed at The Old Globe, Syracuse Stage, Berkshire Theater Festival, and Majestic Theater. His television credits include The Path on Hulu and Can You Survive a Horror Movie on SyFi.

The Artistic Staff:

The creative team includes Scenic Designer Brittany Vasta, Costume Designer Kristin Isola, and Lighting Designer Tony Galaska. The Production Stage Manager is Alison Cote.
 What the Butler Saw Snapshot:
36 Madison Avenue (at Lancaster Road)
Madison, NJ
( Drew University’s campus)
What the Butler Saw
By Joe Orton
Directed by Paul Mullins
Previews begin: Wednesday, September 6 at 7:30 p.m.
Opening Night: Saturday, September 9 at 8:00 p.m.
September 6 – October 1
Previews: Wednesday, September 6 at 7:30 p.m.; Thursday, September 7 at 8:00 p.m., Friday, September 8 at 8:00 p.m.; and Saturday, September 9 at 2:00 p.m.
Opening Night: Saturday, September 9 at 8:00 p.m.
Post-Show Symposium Performances: Tuesday, September 12 at 7:30 p.m.; Saturday, September 16 at 2:00 p.m.; Saturday, September 23 at 2:00 p.m.
Know the Show: Thursday, September 14 at 7:00 p.m.; curtain at 8:00 p.m.
Tuesdays (7:30 p.m.): September 12, 19, and 30
Wednesdays (7:30 p.m.): September 6, 13, 20, and 27
Thursdays (8:00 p.m.): September 7, 14, 21, and 28
Fridays (8:00 p.m.): September 8, 15, 22, and 29
Saturdays (2:00 p.m.): September 9, 16, 23, and 30
Saturdays (8:00 p.m.): September 9, 16, 23, and 30
Sundays (2:00 p.m.): September 10, 17, 24, and October 1
Sundays (7:30 p.m.); September 10, 17, and 24