By Tom Nissley
There’s a delightful production of Joe Orton’s wacky play, “Loot,” at Westport through August 3rd. Orton was a scamp of a playwright in London, who loved strange set-ups and “Loot” may be the strangest. It’s about two pals who break through the wall of the Funeral Home where one of them works, into the bank vault next door, and abscond with a great deal of cash. Dennis (Zach Wegner) and Hal (Devin Norik) decide to put the money into the still warm (almost) casket of Hal’s mother, who has just died. They put her corpse into a grand wardrobe cabinet and lock the door, so that when the body appears to be carried off to the hearse for mum’s funeral, in fact it isn’t.
The story line is complicated by Hal’s compulsion to give only truthful answers when he is asked questions, so when he is quizzed by Nurse Fay (Liv Rooth) or Inspector Truscott (David Manis) or his father (John Horton) about what’s in the cupboard or where is the money now?, his answers reveal more than he wishes, but since they are often misunderstood all that results is peals of laughter from the audience.
Orton was a master with the art of planting ideas. When a glass eye falls from the corpse while it is being taken out of the cupboard, Hal and Fay cannot find it. But when the inspector locates it near the end of Act I, the audience has been groomed to know exactly what he’s found, and that it’s really not the right color for mum’s face, either.
David Kennedy, the associate artistic director of the Playhouse, has directed this skilled cast to wring all of the humor from the twists of the zany plot, and the artistic team have been equally generous with the set and sounds and lighting, and the costumes. By any standard for measuring, this “Loot” is lovely. It plays from Tuesday through Sundays at Westport through August 3. www.westportplayhouse.org or 203-221-4177 for information and tickets.
Tom Nissley for the Ridgelea Reports on Theatre.
July 24, 2013