Entertaining Mr. Sloane is a savagely comic attack on bourgeois values and social hypocrisy. Although the details of its plot may at times seem stark and horrifying, the play itself is blackly humorous; it is a barbed combination of farce and satire that strikes at the heart of middle-class morality. The play’s dominant theme is the utter amorality of its characters; personal gain and self-interest are the sole factors motivating their actions. Although Kath and Ed both make an elaborate show of respectability intended to hide their true natures, much of the play’s humor arises from the disparity between their actions and their explanations for their behavior. Neither actually believes the rationalizations; it is the pretense that matters.
Kath’s seduction of her willing lodger is a case in point. With protestations of motherly solicitude, she approaches Sloane in a sheer negligee, teasingly commenting, “This light is showing me up. I blame it on the manufacturers. They make garments so thin nowadays you’d think they intended to provoke a rape.” Ed’s justification for his interest in Sloane is equally transparent. Why am I interested in your welfare? Why did I give you a job? Why do thinking men everywhere show young boys the strait and narrow? Flash cheque-books when delinquency is mentioned? Support the Scout-movement? Principles, boy, bleeding principles.
The play is at its most acidic in its depiction of Kath and...
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