Sunday, January 19, 2014


One of the risks of writing cutting-edge theatre is that time can wear down sharp edges into blunt instruments. It is the classics that rise above their time and place. Joe Orton's farce Loot is a classic, and even though police corruption, bisexuality, and disrespect for religion are no longer shocking, the play remains fresh and remarkably funny.

Ryan Garbayo and Nick Westrate
Photo: Rahav Segev
The current Red Bull Theater production of this tale of robbery, death, and cheerful sleaziness, complete with ill-gotten gains hidden in a coffin with the corpse in the wardrobe, manages to harvest about 85% of Orton's brilliance. The set (Narelle Sissons) and lighting (Scott Zielinski) provide the perfect ambience, the pacing is good, and much of the acting is excellent. Rebecca Brooksher is an enticing manipulator, Nick Westrate and Ryan Garbayo provide just the right combination of reality and insanity, and Jarlath Conroy's trajectory from mournful to hysterical is perfectly calibrated. The weak link, unfortunately, is Rocco Sisto, who is well-cast physically and a generally reliable performer but who is ultimately defeated by his dialogue. Particularly in the second act, he messed up many lines, and while some sorts of plays can handle such stumbling, farces can't. His mistakes lost laughs and damaged the momentum, and it's really too bad because he was otherwise quite good.

Overall I'd give this production a B. Interestingly enough, my nephew, previously unfamiliar with Orton, gave it an A-. Even at a B, it's well worth seeing, and I continue to be grateful to Red Bull for their always interesting seasons.

(press ticket, second row, right aisle)

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