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Loot Review

Laughs on the dark side

Address: 5420 Nave Drive, Suite C
Novato, CA 94949
Phone: 415-883-4498

LOOT – Laughs on the dark side

The cast of Loot: (l. to r.) John Griffin as Meadows, Peter Malmquist as Dennis, Haley Bertelsen as Fay, James Gregory as Hal, Johnny DeBernard as Truscott and Keith Jefferds as McLeavy,

Review: Judith M. Wilson

Photos: Fred Deneau

LOOT was considered so scandalous when it had its first staging in Cambridge, England, in 1965, that outraged theatergoers reported the play to authorities. The government censor agreed with complaints that several scenes were immoral, and so playwright Joe Orton had to remove the controversial dialog. Attitudes change with time, and several years ago, the script was restored to its original state, allowing production as playwright Joe Orton initially envisioned it. Today, the formerly offensive scenes pass without comment, and local theatergoers now have a chance to see the play at Novato Theater Company. The current production uses the original script, and without the controversy that erupted 50 years ago, the audience has the opportunity to focus on and appreciate the points that Orton makes about hypocrisy and human nature.

The story is a dark comedy that revolves around two bank robbers, Hal and Dennis, who stash some money they have stolen in the coffin of Hal’s mother, who has just died. Things don’t go quite the way they plan, and the comedy lies in the ways they try to keep the money hidden, as they deal with the dead woman’s widower, the nurse who cared for the dead woman during her last days, police inspector looking for the money, and a police officer. It becomes clear as the plot unfolds, that while some characters project an image of decency and respectability, it’s simply a veneer to cover more sinister intentions.

Trevor Scott Floyd, who is artistic director at Marin Theatre Company, directs, with some clever scenes revolving around the casket and corpse and the need to continually move the money to keep it hidden. Keith Jefferds plays McLeavy, the widower, as a devout Catholic dealing with loss, while James Gregory and Peter Malmquist play the conscious-free bank robbers. Haley Bertelson portrays the nurse, Fay, who gradually unveils her true nature over the course of the play and becomes more mercenary and manipulative as the action progresses. Johnny DeBernard plays Truscott, the duplicitous police inspector, who comes on strong and is determined to find the money. John Griffin rounds out the cast as the police constable Meadows. The performances are among the play’s strong points, as the actors have to define their characters as mostly unsavory, unlikeable people, while making them entertaining enough to hold the audience’s attention, which they do skillfully.

Janelle Pont is responsible for properties as well as being producer, and some properties are essential to the plot, while others help to define characters and underscore Orton’s points about religious behavior, society’s attitudes toward death, greed and the role of the police force.

LOOT is a comedy, and it contains some funny scenes, but it also pokes fun at some of society’s conventions mercilessly, as it peels back the expectations and shows us reality. That might have been its ultimate sin in 1965. It showed people things they didn’t want to see or confront and poked fun at their beliefs and expectations. It undoubtedly made them uncomfortable, but it’s a tale worth telling.


LOOT plays at Novato Theatre Company, 5420 Nave Drive, Novato, through Sunday, February 10. For tickets and season’s subscriptions, go to www.novatotheatercompany.org or email tickets@novatotheatercompany.org.