In his brief career in the 1960s, British playwright Joe Orton wrote only three full length plays, starting with the character driven comedy Entertaining Mr. Sloane and ending with the all balls out farce What the Butler Saw which was not produced until after his tragic death at the hands of his lover. Orton’s second play, Loot, is being given a wonderful production at the Odyssey Theatre Ensemble, launching their 50th Anniversary Season. Loot features a heavy dose of Orton’s patented brand of anarchist theatre–railing against the niceties of British society, the pieties of the Catholic Church and the roughshod tactics of the police.
Two young sexually exploring mates, Hal (Robbie Jarvis) and Dennis (Alex James-Phelps), have just pulled off a daring robbery, tunneling into a bank from the adjoining funeral parlor where Dennis works. The play’s action (and there is plenty of it under the frantically refined direction of Bart DeLorenzo) takes place in a room in the McLeavy household. Front and center is a casket containing Hal’s recently deceased mother. But she doesn’t get to rest in peace for long as her casket is needed to hide the bank loot from the suspicious and determined Inspector Truscott of the Yard (Ron Bottitta). Into a locked closet head first goes poor mum’s embalmed body while the bank notes are placed in the casket. Hal has the bad habit of not being able to tell a lie so soon his mum’s probable serial killer nurse Fay (Elizabeth Arends) and even Truscott are on to the boys and their scheme. Only the befuddled widower McLeavy (Nicholas Hormann) is unaware of the madcap shenanigans going on around him. He’s more interested in the various floral wreaths his wife’s death has engendered.
You really have to listen to the dialogue in an Orton play because if not every line, then every other line is definitely a laugh line. The corpse physically gets about as much respect as the Catholic Church and the police department do verbally. No one, no institution was spared when Orton took up his pen. A sample of his non sequitur humor—Truscott is most famous for solving the case of The Limbless Girl Killer. She wasn’t the victim but rather the killer. In Loot, the innocent go to prison while the guilty live to laugh another day.
The very talented cast gets all the laughs and more. Jarvis and James-Phelps bring an easy camaraderie and a fluid sexual charm to the boyish bank robbing twosome. Arends easily commands them and the other men with her take charge assertiveness. Bottitta only needs a French accent to match the bumbling Inspector Clouseau, although Truscott is darker and much more violent at times. Hormann gives a bright shine to befuddlement. I have seen many productions of Loot over the years but I have never seen one where a live actress served as the corpse of Mrs. McLeavy. Hopefully Selina Woolery Smith’s costume is well padded for all the abuse she takes. She also appears on her own two feet as the policewoman Meadows. Loot is a hoot! Don’t miss it or you will definitely feel robbed.