Opening in the midst of their 68th season at the Little Lake Theatre in Canonsburg is Loot: Joe Orton’s challenging dark satire on authority, the Catholic Church, rituals of death and police integrity. Just for good measure throw in greed, sex and love into the mix of this British farce set in the 80’s.
Two young lads, Hal and Dennis turn to thievery by robbing the local bank, which happens to be next door to the funeral home where Dennis works. Hal’s mother has just died, so what better place to stash the money than in her casket at her home, necessitating moving dear old Mum’s corpse out of the casket to a nearby closet to make room for the loot in the coffin.
Turns out Mum’s nurse, Fay McMahon, may have had a hand in Mum’s death in order to glam onto the family fortune by marrying Hal’s father, Mr. McLeavy. One of her many skills that become apparent later on.
Police Inspector Truscott arrives hot on the trail of the missing cash. He’s disguised as a Water Board member looking to inspect the pipes and thereby avoiding the need for a search warrant. McLeavy is more than happy to help out a hard public working servant by checking the taps. “Loving to help out the authorities.” Let the fun begin!
John Reilly’s McLeavy is the perfect somewhat befuddled grieving English gentleman from an older era.
Michael Makar as Hal and Dawson Laabs as Dennis create the interesting odd couple of early career crooks. When not out robbing banks Dennis is out servicing the needs of the local young ladies and gentlemen. Hal likes to frequent the “amazing brothels” he has found in the area. These two we quickly love to hate.
Nurse Fay McMahon, deliciously played by Natalie Spanner with the proper restraint of a lady, initially barely revealing her sinister plan to capture her seventh husband in as many years.
Over the play’s development and rewrites of subsequent productions, Inspector Truscott emerged as the central character. Tom Protulipac’s Truscott is an over-the-top hybrid of Colombo / Inspector Clouseau. Tom brings boundless energy and perspiration to the role as he uncovers plot twist after plot twist. It’s a fine performance that unfortunately doesn’t take full advantage of the Little Lake stage’s intimacy.
Yes, there are actually two normal characters in this dust up. Jeff Johnson does double duty as the production’s Stage Manager and Officer Meadows. Martha Bell gives a totally lifeless performance as the corpse.
Loot is a difficult show with a complex narrative and a bunch of characters that are really hard to like. Art DeConcillis’ direction holds it together well, keeping a nice balance of seriously questioning the bounds of the police, the church and our attitudes towards death against this zany cast of characters.
Little Lake is a lovely intimate in-the-round performance space perfectly suited to Loot. Pam Pasternak’s and Jared Pfennigwerth’s scenic elements are minimal, just enough to convey the feeling of a pre-funeral family parlor.
This is first-rate community theatre well worth going to see and supporting. The actors were clearly having fun in their roles and enjoying their craft making it a pleasure to watch. Every one of the theatre staff was friendly and enthusiastic, thanking each audience member for coming to the show as we were seated. As an added bonus, the intermission deserts from Bartram House Bakery and the Pie House are first rate.
Thanks to Little Lake for the complimentary press pass.
Loot runs August 18-20 at 8pm, August 25 -27 at 8pm, August 28th at 2pm and September 1-3 at 8pm. For tickets and information: www.littlelake.org or 724-745-6300
Photo credit: James Orr