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THEATER REVIEW:Performances uneven, but fun

May 16, 2007

The productions at A Noise Within are typically luminous — hypnotic, even. They create a magical world in which to escape for a few hours. Therefore it is highly unusual to come across an adaptation of an outstanding script that is uneven and slightly uncomfortable to watch. Nonetheless, there are a few good laughs in this black farce.

"Loot" opens in the parlor of Mr. McLeavy, an older, working class, Catholic Brit who is mourning the recent death of his wife. Her loyal nurse, Fay, tends to him and, in the span of 10 minutes, has convinced him to propose to her. We then discover she's been married seven times and each husband has met a mysterious end.

McLeavy's son, Hal, is a bisexual and a bank robber with the handicap of being unable to lie, which is very unfortunate for a criminal. His bisexual lover, Dennis, also loves Fay. Dennis and Hal have recently robbed a bank and need somewhere to stash the loot. Mrs. McLeavy's coffin will do fine, but where to stash the body? Upside-down in the wardrobe, of course. Fay discovers the boys' plans and decides Dennis will do as a husband now that he's got money.

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Enter the Clouseau-esque Inspector Truscott. He's from the Metropolitan Water Board — or is he? Somehow he convinces everyone to do his bidding, his instructions vacillating on a dime. In this crazy mixed-up circus, who is to be trusted and who will be busted? Only the ending will confirm. Playwright Joe Orton must have had a grand time crafting this classic farce that pokes fun at Catholics, Puritanical upright living and police, to name a few.

Orton, considered by many to be the heir-apparent to Oscar Wilde, led an unconventional life back in London's swinging 1960s. His plays reflect his partiality to skewering social mores to the delight of (some, not all) theater-goers. He came to an early and grizzly end but the black humor in his well-crafted works, such as "Loot," remains as funny as ever. Unfortunately, there were laughs that didn't get to be heard in this production due to some distracting choices.

While character development is not necessarily an element of farce, some of the six actors seemed downright awkward. Nurse Fay could be such a juicy, provocative character, yet Jill Hill, while funny at times, wasn't quite sure how to play her.

Her wardrobe didn't help. Her false eyelashes, wig and ill-fitting dress were getting in her way. Or perhaps they were getting in my way of seeing her humanity.

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