When Hal and Dennis, a couple of young bank robbers, look for the perfect place to hide the “loot,” they figured no one would look inside the coffin of Hal’s recently departed mother, which sits in the middle of the living room. The problem is that there’s so much money that it won’t fit into the coffin with “mum’s” body inside it. The two hoodlums then toss mum into a dresser and begin to pile stacks of money into the coffin.
That’s when nurse Fay enters Joe Orton’s satirical farce. She wants in and agrees to strip “mummy” and wrap her in a sheet, while the two men fill the coffin with money. When the deed is accomplished mum actually looks like a mummy. The plan is to eventually get rid of the loot and replace mum in her coffin. However, the “best laid plans” theory applies here.
All three are quite surprised when Truscott, an idiotic detective arrives on the scene. That’s when mum’s wrapped body is tossed around like a big stuffed toy. As it’s thrown from bed to chair, neither the detective nor the overly grief-stricken husband realize that the so-called dummy is actually the body of the deceased.
What is so interesting is that while audience members may well be appalled at such outrageous disrespect for the dead, especially by the mum’s own son, they can’t help but laugh at the ludicrous situation. Add to this that the nurse, who “cared” for the deceased woman, has already managed a proposal of marriage from the grief-stricken widower, which took place in front of his dead wife’s body when it was still in the coffin in the living room.
The playwright creates more and more outrageously offensive situations regarding this time of grief and in the process manages to create plenty of humor.
Using unthinkable hurt and insult to create laughter is not something new. Even Shakespeare employed it in some of his plays, and artistic director Mark Lamos refers to comedy being “grounded in pain, fear, and sadness” in the “Loot” playbill. It certainly works well in this play aptly directed by David Kennedy.
While this production is funny, there have been more hilarious productions. Part of the problem is that the two young men seem somewhat disconnected from the action, rendering weak performances. Such is not the case with Liv Rooth as Fay, the money-smart, murderous nurse who knows how to get her hands on money one way or another. Played by Rooth with equal amounts of sex appeal and sass, she is the epitome of a gold-digger.
Also delivering fine performances are John Horton in the role of the grieving husband. Alternating between crying and being totally shocked by the events going on around him, Horton’s performance is quite believable. So too, the performance of David Manis as the bungling detective, which brings to mind Peter Sellers’ obtuse “Inspector Clouseau.” Devin Norik plays Hal, Zach Wegner plays Dennis and William Peden completes the cast.
Andrew Boyce’s set of a London home, complete with coffin, is attractive and functional and is accented by Matthew Richard’s lighting design and Fitz Patton’s sound design. Emily Rebholz’s costumes bring out the essence of each character, especially nurse Fay and detective Truscott.
The production plays through Aug. 3. Tickets start at $30. Box office: 203-227-4177.
Joanne Greco Rochman is an active member in The American Theatre Critics Association, and covers art and culture in a blog for CBS and CBS-CT. She welcomes comments. Contact: [email protected]