What better to showcase Throughline Theatre Company's 2015 theme of "Method in Madness" than its production of The Ruling Class, which provides an eclectic night of megalomania, lust, greed and murder, delivered in a simple production comprising song, dance and serious acting?
This staging of the 1968 satire by Peter Barnes stays fairly faithful to the original. Most of the messages still resonate, and much of the classic dialogue still works. ("Tricky business marrying a man who thinks he's God." "Happens all the time.")
The action concerns the evolving — or devolving — sanity of the 14th Earl of Gurney, ably played by Everett Lowe, who over the course of two-and-half hours must transmogrify between incarnations of Jesus Christ and Jack the Ripper. Because his voice lacks the plectrum distinctness to deliver the messianic verbal barrages required, Lowe is more convincing as sinister Jack, in Act II, than manic Jesus in Act I. However, Lowe is utterly convincing in portraying Jack's malefic silences.
The cast plays multiple roles, retiring to chairs along the back of the stage, where it becomes a de facto Greek chorus that can still comment, sing or — in the case of Jenny Marlarkey, as Lady Gurney — offer a poignant wink after being murdered.
Michael Petrucci steals the scene when he appears as McKyle, the rival "electric Jesus," delivering, literally, thousands of volts of energy. And Luke Chamberlain is a convincing twit as Dinsdale, who would make any Monty Python fan happy.
Director Don DiGiulio keeps the pace moving, fun and engaging, which is good when you have a 150-minute book. But one might question certain inconsistencies, such as the range of British accents — from the barely present to the cockney of Laura Barletta's Grace Shelley, who also has a beautiful singing voice — and the anachronism of Lowe's Jesus costume. Peter O'Toole's cassock and cincture in the 1972 film version work much better than Lowe's modern bathrobe — which looks like a gift from your Aunt Edna — especially contrasted with the Edwardian garb sported by the rest of the cast. But these are small flaws in an entertaining show.