Sometimes you just have to be in the mood for a British comedy/satire, such as Loot (running two more weekends at the Stage Coach Theatre). Director Karl Johnson has done a splendid job with pacing, attractive set design and creative stage movement, and the coffin by Don Walker is a riveting focus on stage, but the characters just don't seem to come to life and make us care about them.
The one exception is Joseph Wright, who plays McLeavy, an aging widower whose wife died three days earlier. He grieves, prays, worries, flirts, bleeds from dog bites, defends his rights as an Englishman and stands up (on tiptoe) to the overbearing Police Inspector Truscott of the Yard. Wright is the only one who seems to be emotionally affected by the strange goings-on in his home. His deceased wife, at first resting quietly and properly in her coffin, gets dumped into a closet on her head, stripped naked, stuffed in a bag and carried about the stage, mainly to make room for the "loot" stolen from the bank.
Loot takes pokes at middle class British society, the Catholic Church and the honesty (or lack of it) of the police. "If you have a twisted look at the world, this is the play to reinforce that," said Johnson. He also emphasized that it is an "adult" play, not really suitable for children under 14.
Ben Ulmen plays the young bank robber, who, with his accomplice, removes his mother from her coffin in order to hide their stolen money from the police. No, it's not a take off on "Six Feet Under," although it does take place next door to a funeral parlor, but a comedy that "seethes with black, hateful mirth," says an Associated Press review. Ulmen plays an attractive thief with a certain playful charm, but in addition to his cold-blooded lack of concern for his mother's remains, he is so relaxed and laid back that I feared he might fall asleep before the play ended. His cohort, portrayed by Zach Townsend, seems a little more alert and aware of the tangle they are in, especially when his lady love becomes involved. But how these two casual blunderers successfully robbed a bank is the biggest mystery in the show.
Nova Calverley plays Fay McMahon with sly sparkle. Fay is a nurse who has an amazing background. In addition to seven deceased husbands, she may have done in her patient, the late Mrs. McLeavy. Calverley creates a greedy, money grubbing vamp with nerves of steel. She is sexy, smart and will do anything for a shilling. All of which makes her intriguing but one dimensional.
And then there's Truscott of the Yard, portrayed with bombastic, eye-popping and blood-pressure-rising fury by Frederic Webb. His character is a brute and a braggart, and never believes confessions when he hears them. He is at his funniest when explaining that in England, stealing public money is worse than multiple murders.
The juxtaposition of outrageous events with mundane language is at the heart of playwright Joe Orton's comedic style and the twists and surprises in this plot never end-even to the end.