The world in Joe Orton's 1965 Loot is jauntily rotten: a place where the pious meet their ruin without a word of explanation, sincerity prompts only withering disdain, and wickedness reaps riches. The action opens with a woman's corpse lying center stage in a casket. Her widower, arch-Catholic dim-bulb McLeavy (Stuart Goetz-Smith), is understandably bereft. Not so are the sexy nurse Fay (Misty Anne Brehmer) and McLeavy's good-for-nothing son Hal (Michael David Postle). Fay is angling to marry McLeavy for his money, and Hal is trying to figure out how to elude the police and keep hold of a wad of cash he collected from a bank robbery. (It's handily stashed in a cupboard mere yards from mama's dead body.) The early going was fairly tedious in the matinee I attended earlier this week, but things picked up toward the end of the first act, and the second was solid dark comedy. The arrival of Truscott (Andy Babinski) helps move things along. He claims to be from the Water Department, but is transparently a cop and inserts himself into the McLeavy household with a mix of gnomic pronouncements and authoritarian bluster. Babinski clearly has fun with the role, and he gets some of the best lines. For instance, when he encounters McLeavy's dead wife rolled tight in a sheet, he deadpans to Hal, "Whose mummy is this?" Sam L. Landman is wry and doom-ridden as Hal's sex-and-crime pal Dennis, though all eventually tremble before the Columbo-on-'shrooms presence of Truscott. The play seems dated to the point of a dangerous quaintness; the gay subtext between the omnisexual Hal and Dennis might have been scandalous in '60s Britain, but here seems anachronistically closeted. And the repeated references to Catholics and Protestants surely evoked a universe of outrage back then, though contemporary audiences will likely yawn. One hates to think of poor Joe's dramatic Molotovs being met with gentle laughs, but that's his lot. What endures from his vision are the devastatingly funny epigrams and one-liners that he apparently could churn out like widgets, and the disgust for people and society that drives his stories. Orton could do far worse than this staging.
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