When a sharp-witted, clever script meets a fully competent cast who knows how to handle its’ subtleties, theatrical bliss occurs. Currently at the Lucille Lortel theater, fifty percent of this equation is intact in a revival of Joe Orton’s Loot. The script is well preserved and bitingly cynical; the delivery could be improved. Written in 1966, the British playwright’s black comedy cleverly manages to take jabs at authority by representing them as complete buffoons-equally as dumb as they as dishonorable. This was Orton’s crafty way of raging against a corrupt police society which at the time, had banned and criminalized homosexuality in England. Orton himself was gay and was a victim of this oppressive regime.
Loot opens in the living room of McLeavy (Jarlath Conroy), who is mourning the loss of his recently deceased wife. He is conversing with his wife’s nurse and caretaker, Fay (Rebecca Brooksher) a sexy bombshell jockeying to take the new widow’s hand in marriage. Meanwhile, McLeavy’s son, Hal (Nick Westrate) and his friend Dennis (Ryan Garbayo) have just robbed a bank and are seeking a place to hide the cash. Their conceal is foiled when the imposing, but dim detective Truscott (Rocco Sisto) appears at the door to incite an investigation for the missing “loot.”
What could be an impeccably timed, hilarious madcap is instead a muted attempt at farce. Most of the players in Red Bull theater’s production fall short of fulfilling the nuances and execution required for such a deft piece. One exception here is Conroy, who is remarkable as the stupefied, patriarchal lackey—mostly oblivious to the corruption around him until it is too late. He seems to be the only one asserting a British accent with any authenticity.
This reputable and well respected theater company, which specializes in classical theater, has staged a well-intended, but basically unfulfilling production. Orton’s usually provocative words are instead conveyed with simply adequate proficiency and finesse under the direction of founding artistic director Jesse Berger. It is with eager anticipation and hopefulness that their spring production of Charles Ludlam’s campy spoof The Mystery of Irma Vep is mounted with finer acuity.
Red Bull Theater’s Loot, now playing off-Broadway through February 9th at the Lucille Lortel Theater, 121 Christopher Street (between Bleecker and Hudson). Tickets available by phone: 212.352.3101, online: https://web.ovationtix.com/trs/cal/2722 or at the box office.