Rebellious iconoclast and society critic, playwright Joe Orton – dubbed “Oscar Wilde of the Welfare State” by a theater critic of his day – lived to shock and poke holes in the social fabric of the 60’s. Orton’s view of his world was dark and even macabre – but also outrageously funny – as he ceaselessly pointed out the inconsistencies in our beliefs with mocking jabs at almost every “sacred cow” honored by society. To quote director Bart DeLorenzo, “Orton suggests that life is a robbery – a total con job – and most suckers close their eyes and let themselves be taken…the government and the police and the church are all rigged profit-making enterprises designed to control behavior and reward only the most selfish exploiters at the top….the world is manipulated by liars and thieves.” Orton’s plays both shocked and intrigued theater-goers, laughing as they groaned in painful pleasure.
The Odyssey Theatre Ensemble kicks off its “Circa 69” season with significant plays that premiered around the time of the Odyssey’s 1969 debut – and what better representative of the epoch than Joe Orton’s LOOT. Inspired by the real-life London police inspector Harold Challenor, a brutal and crafty man who epitomized the playwright’s view of the world, Orton crafted police detective Truscott – a man not hampered by common decency or concerns about truth when they get in the way of his self-interests.
It seems that the McLeavy household has just suffered the loss of their matriarch, a sad event which son Hal (Robbie Jarvis), his“bestie” Dennis (Alex James-Phelps), and now unemployed caregiver Fay (Elizabeth Arends) just might be able to convert into a useful turn of events. Why not hide stacks of hot cash, the LOOT in question, where no one would think to look? After all, the deceased lady’s coffin just happens to be very handy, standing as it is in the middle of the McLeavy living room. But what of the lady’s grieving spouse Mr. McLeavy (Nicholas Hormann)? And how about the nosy policeman Truscott (Ron Bottitta)?
“Outrageous,” “bizarre,” and “ghoulish” are just a few of the adjectives which might be applied to LOOT. Then why is the audience laughing? Author Orton manages to turn the mundane into the unexpected with a sly glance and a sardonic word. Ever the cynic, Orton captures the fantasies society espouses and turns them topsy-turvy. LOOT was a child of the 60’s – and yet it is not dated almost 60 years later. Audience Alert: Remember that nothing is sacred in Orton’s eyes. LOOT is definitely not kiddie friendly, but adults will find it hilarious and captivating.
LOOT runs through August 10, 2019, with performances at 8 p.m. on Wednesdays (July 10 and July 31 only), Thursday (August 8 only), Fridays, and Saturdays and at 2 p.m. on Sundays. The Odyssey Theatre is located at 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90025. Tickets range from $32 to $37 (Tix for $10 on Friday, June 14, Wednesday, July 10, and Friday, July 28). For information and reservations, call 310-477-2055 Ext. 2 or go online.