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A dead body is missing - laugh it off with 'Loot'

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What’s so funny about a missing dead body? "Loot," the first offering of 2014 from Red Bull Theater answers that question with a parade of less than ethical characters who will get you laughing as they attempt to recover that body and themselves in the process. Not to spoil the suspense, but the body does get recovered. However, as to the characters recovering, well that’s another story.

"Loot" was written by Joe Orton in a time period where attitudes towards certain institutions of society were considered sacred. So, when "Loot" first played in London’s West End theater district in 1966, it was regarded as one of the 20th Century’s most subversive comic masterpieces. Orton took aim at some of the most highly regarded institutions of the day namely the police and Catholic piety. He also makes humorous use of a dead corpse, murder, and robbery.

The setting for the play is June 1965 in a living room of a home in the UK. The plot centers around the McLeavy family who are in mourning due to the death of the matriarch, Mrs. McLeavy. The son, Hal, has been in cahoots with another young man, Dennis, robbing a bank. It turns out that Dennis works for the undertaker who is handling Mrs. McLeavy’s funeral services. This gives him access to the casket with Mrs. McLeavy’s body which he and Hal remove in order to store their stolen cash. Nurse Fay is already romancing Mr. McLeavy as her next husband after a long string of former ones who have already passed on. All of this is going on as Scotland Yard Inspector Truscott enters the picture and begins the investigation. He passes himself off as a water department inspector so he can gain information without arousing suspicion. And so it goes on until all is revealed with surprising but amusing outcomes.

The fine casting for the show includes Rebecca Brooksher (Fay), Eric Martin Brown (Meadows), Jarlath Conroy (McLeavy), Ryan Garbayo (Dennis), Rocco Sisto (Truscott), and Nick Westrate (Hal). Some of the characters are so despicable that one can hardly believe they have not been locked up in a prison and had the key thrown away. But then again, they would likely have found the key after it was thrown and made it out again to continue to ravage those in their path.

Direction for the Red Bull’s production is by its Artistic Director Jesse Berger. Berger has provided a play that has lots of irreverent humor, action that is well paced, and characters that appear lovely but are scoundrels underneath. "Loot" keeps its audience laughing for the entire 90 + minutes of the show. Much has changed in the world since this play premiered back in 1965. Yet, today’s audiences should be able to acknowledge that corruption and deception are as alive today as back then.

Performances run until February 9th only at the Lucille Lortel Theater, 121 Christopher Street, between Bleecker and Hudson Streets. Visit www.RedBullTheater.com for more information and to purchase tickets online.

Note: Originally published by this writer on www.letsgotothetheater.wordpress.com

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