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Flying Karamazov Bros.; 'What the Butler Saw'; Cyndi Lauper; 'What the Butler Saw'

Perhaps just as zanily funny, but much less clean, is ''What the Butler Saw, '' at Trinity Square Repertory Company in Providence, R.I. (playing through Sunday).

English playwright Joe Orton, writing in 1969, in the thick of sexual experimentation and public reaction to it, lobs grenades of incest, homosexuality, cross-dressing, and nymphomania at what seems to be his vision of a complacent, prissy English bourgeoisie.

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Since ''Butler'' is a farce, however, most of these grenades are really sparklers of misunderstanding that arise out of a psychiatrist's trying to cover up his attempted seduction of a prospective secretary. This leads to an excruciatingly tangled web of mistaken identities (sexual and otherwise) that turns all the characters into lunatics.

There's a lot that is good about this play. It's a tightly constructed farce, with every relentless twist accounted for. Through all this madness, the characters spout genteel dialogue worthy of Oscar Wilde. And the production, directed by Peter Gerety, is fine, too. Well cast, the acting is top-notch, and the characters are given delicious detail, including one man's stand-up hair and his inability to open a snapping briefcase.

But director Gerety can be faulted for slathered farce upon farce, weighting down the play. His psychiatrist's couch goes beyond being ''big enough for two'' - it's a pink satin double bed. Becca Lish, as the secretary-to-be, hasn't a shred of the genuine innocence her dialogue implies: She's directed to be unconsciously tantalizing and is placed in some tastelessly compromising positions.

So although the construction and production are generally quite good, I wonder at the choice of this play. It's showing signs of age; the shock value for these kinky conditions has worn thin and tired. And the constant harping on sexual innuendo gets to be shrill and gratingly one-note after a while. At the end, my feeling was that there was a lot of talent expended on a play of dubious merit.

This company (which just received one of eight National Endowment for the Arts grants given to repertory companies) could spend its undeniable talents doing something with a bit more heart, soul, and class than this.

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