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LA Theater Review

Loot

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Bad-boy playwright Joe Orton (1933-1967), who was bludgeoned to death with a hammer by his lover Kenneth Halliwell, wrote plays as darkly subversive as the infamous trajectory of his own reckless life. Loot is a scathingly cynical farce, driven by amorality and irreverence, as it sends up law enforcement agencies, the Catholic Church, human greed, and sundry other targets. Its arch, Wilde-inspired dialogue is too pungent and its satire too sardonically nasty for it to be played as garden-variety slapstick. Directors Geoff Elliott and Julia Rodriguez-Elliott wisely avoid that pitfall in a generally solid production marred by a few half-baked performances.

As the distraught McLeavy (Alan Blumenfeld) awaits the funeral of his beloved wife, who died three days prior, the dead woman's self-serving young nurse, Fay (Jill Hill), connives to quickly marry the wealthy widower. Meanwhile, McLeavy's ne'er-do-well son, Hal (Joshua Biton), has just robbed a bank in collaboration with his bisexual "mate" Dennis (Joseph Rye). They hide the booty in Mummy dearest's casket while stashing her cadaver in a wardrobe closet. When Truscott (Geoff Elliott), a supposed water-department inspector, manipulates his way into McLeavy's household and begins snooping around, it becomes a matter of "Oh, dear, where can we stash Mummy next?" as a glass eyeball rolls around on the floor and other manic complications ensue.

The production's strongest suit is Geoff Elliott's sharp portrayal of the duplicitous sleuth — Sherlock Holmes by way of Inspector Clouseau. He's hilariously nutty, yet dangerous and dastardly at appropriate times. Hill evokes strong laughs as the femme-fatale caretaker, making the most of her lines, such as when she places a copy of the Ten Commandments on Mrs. McLeavy's casket and remarks, "She was a great believer in some of them." As the blustery widower, Blumenfeld is intermittently amusing, though his portrayal needs more variety. Likewise, the characterizations offered by Biton and Rye lean toward the bland. Scott Asti is capable in a very small role.

Design elements — especially Michael C. Smith's finely detailed set — are artfully rendered. Though not cashing in on all of the script's riches, the Elliotts offer a moderately effective revisit to one of Orton's finest works.

Presented by and at A Noise Within, 234 S. Brand Blvd., Glendale. Repertory schedule. Apr. 28-Jun. 3. (818) 240-0910, ext. 1. www.anoisewithin.org.

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