Dog Days Returns, Sets Stage for Satire

Theater

BY PHILIP LEDERER SRQ DAILY WEDNESDAY PHILANTHROPY EDITION WEDNESDAY JUL 11, 2018

After a successful 2017 debut, Dog Days Theatre returns this week to the FSU Performing Arts Center to open its second summer season with a production of Joe Orton’s madcap sex farce, What the Butler Saw. A special initiative of the FSU/Asolo Conservatory for Actor Training, the goals of Dog Days Theatre are twofold: give Conservatory students the opportunity to work alongside professional performers, and provide year-round Sarasotans with two good-humored but literate productions to counteract the brutal summer heat. “No one knows this,” says Greg Leaming, director of the Conservatory, producer of Dog Days Theatre and director of this particular show, “but the title refers to Victorian porn.” So buckle up.

The final play from Orton, What the Butler Saw pulls out all the stops for comedy of errors that Leaming can only describe as “anarchic.” “[Orton’s] taken the idea of a French bedroom farce,” he says, “and he’s turned it into this chaotic, anarchic, political attack on hypocrisy that is outrageously funny, shockingly funny.” Swapping the bedroom for the psychiatrist’s office, the story centers around the lascivious Dr. Prentice, who tries to seduce the young woman applying for an assistant position, but who receives an unexpected visit from his wife, who has designs of her own. Events unfold, involving everyone from the authorities to a particularly “randy” bellhop.

It’s 1960s humor with an edge, says Leaming. “That nastiness that’s so exciting,” he says. He compares Orton to Oscar Wilde, but with an important distinction. “Oscar Wilde poked fun at a culture and a society that he desperately wanted to be a part of,” says Leaming. “Joe Orton doesn’t give a damn.” No one is spared, from the free love advocates to the conservative faction fighting against them. “He’s satirizing hypocrisy,” says Leaming, and puncturing “heightened political correctness” at the same time. “The audience leaves having had an incredible laugh," he continues, "but thinking, ‘Oh my. Look at what I was laughing at.’”

What the Butler Saw opens July 12 at the FSU Performing Arts Center and runs through July 29. Tickets are $30.

Pictured: Summer Dawn Wallace and David Kortemeier in "What the Butler Saw." Photo by John Revisky.

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