It's a delicate balancing act and director Joseph Discher brings it off, letting the audience know that it's OK to laugh but refusing to let the show devolve into a cartoon.
Made up and padded to resemble photographs of the real Butler, Ames Adamson gives a wonderfully sympathetic performance. And John G. Williams is even better as Mallory, alternately wily and winsome, always making it clear that Mallory knows he isn't in control of his destiny but that he should be.
As its very name indicates, the focus of Butler is, yet again, how the issue of race affects a white person. But Williams' centered performance commands attention for the plight of Mallory—and, by extension, all other black people—as well.