By Roz Friedman
It has been said that when a play has a coffin on stage, it cannot be a success. But Loot is a hoot! This 1960's play written by the rebel, Joe Orton, is English comedy at its blackest. It pokes fun at the world with piercing satire. The dead body of an elderly woman with a missing false eye is thrown around like a beanbag; her son, a criminal, who has just robbed a bank, makes fun of Catholics, Protestants and everything else; a young, pretty nurse, who has been married and widowed 7 times, causes mayhem; a detective pretending to be on the Water Board spouts morals while taking a bribe. What a crew! “Downton Abbey” it isn't!
Directed by Associate Artistic Director David Kennedy, whose work I so much enjoy, Loot is a romp with literary and religious overtones. It is set in one complex room that serves as living and bedroom well-designed by Andrew Boyce and lit by Matthew Richards. Kudos to the props master Carianne Hoff. Costumes are by Emily Rebholz. Timing is everything and the cast seemed to have it down perfectly, particularly in the second act. And their London accents, coached by Deborah Hecht, are splendid. John Horton as the grieving widower, McLeavy, is a natural; McLeavy is shocked by the nurse, Fay, played by blond, Liv Rooth. First she proposes marriage, when his wife has not yet been buried. Then, she admits that his wife has changed her will and left everything to her. She even goes so far as to wear the dead woman's black dress!
Meanwhile, McLeavy's son, Harold (Hal), a part attractive Devin Norik plays with a hint of danger, has conspired to rob the bank with his “luxurious” friend, Dennis, a competent Zach Wegner; they hide the stolen bills in the coffin. Poor dead mum -- where is she to go? Well everywhere. Wrapped in white muslin, she is moved from the armoire to the bed to the coffin to the unseen hearse and back, as nurse Fay tells the nosey Truscott that it is her dressmaking dummy. David Manis is excellently annoying and funny as the Scotland Yard sleuth.
Harold (Hal) is cut from from the playwright's cloth; for Joe Orton was jailed with his best friend, Kenneth Halliwell for 6 months for defacing books, and was subsequently killed horrifically by him in 1967 at the age of 34.
Loot will play at the WCP through Aug 3.
This review originally aired on WMNR 88.1FINE ARTS PUBLIC RADIO