Joe Orton's LOOT Opens Odyssey's 50th Anniversary 'Circa '69' Season
Odyssey Theatre Ensemble kicks off its "Circa '69" season of significant and adventurous plays that premiered around the time of the Odyssey's 1969 inception with Joe Orton's darkly comic masterpiece Loot. Bart DeLorenzodirects this tour de force of corrosive wit, dizzying intrigue and classic farce for aJune 8 opening, with performances continuing through Aug. 10.
When Loot was first performed in the '60s, it shocked audiences with itsmerciless mockery of conventional propriety and frank depictions of police brutality and religious hypocrisy.
According to DeLorenzo, Orton's plays haven't aged - and neither have his targets.
"Loot is such a subversive play," he says. "I love the opening line: 'Wake up. Stop dreaming.' It's Joe Orton giving us all a jolt. Asking us to wipe the fluff from our eyes and see society the way he sees it, as a sort of rigged system that benefits bullies and oppressors and controls anyone stupid enough to go along with the lies. Loot suggests that the only acceptable alternative is to become a criminal - the only way to ever get what you want - and Orton shows us just how much fun that can be."
British actors Robbie Jarvis (Philip Ridley's Shivered at Southwark Playhouse, teen-aged James Potter in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix) and Alex James-Phelps(regular on EastEnders, upcoming Elton John biopic Rocketman) star as young thieves Hal and Dennis, who have just robbed the bank next to the funeral parlor. What safer place to hide the money than in the coffin of Hal's recently deceased Mum? But with the coffin full up with the loot, there's no room left for the body. The boys try to hide the corpse (Selina Woolery Smith, frequent performer with L.A.'s legendary comedy troupe Burglars of Hamm)from Hal's recently widowed father, Mr. McCleavy (Nicholas Hormann, whose Broadway credits include Love for Love, The Visit, Saint Joan, Member of the Wedding and Execution of Justice), and from Fay, the nurse of the recently deceased Mrs. McCleavy (Elizabeth Arends, seen in Richard III at London's Old Vic and as Lady Macbeth at the Hampstead). But Inspector Truscott (Odyssey favorite Ron Bottitta - back-to-back productions of Hir, Faith Healer and, now, Loot) is hot on their heels, and their plan quickly begins to unravel.
Joe Orton (1933-1967) was a British playwright, born in Leicester, whose outrageous dark comedies and macabre farces scandalized theater audiences in the 1960s. After winning an acting scholarship to RADA in 1951, he met Kenneth Halliwell, an actor and writer who became his life-long mentor, lover, roommate and collaborator. Orton and Halliwell first came to public attention not as writers, but through an elaborate prank played out at their local library, altering book covers and adding new provocative blurbs to dust jackets. In 1962, they were sentenced to six months in prison for this crime, an unusually harsh sentence "because we were queers," Orton later commented. Prison proved transformative: "It affected my attitude towards society. Before I had been vaguely conscious of something rotten somewhere, prison crystallized this. The old whore society really lifted up her skirts and the stench was pretty foul." In his rapid-fire writing that followed, Orton contributed to an exciting working class youth culture that swept through the nation. His first success, the radio play Ruffian on the Stair, broadcast in 1964, ushered in a run of successes -Entertaining Mr. Sloane in 1964, Loot in 1965 and What the Butler Saw, written in 1967 - shocking and unconventional entertainments that examined moral corruption, authoritarian abuse and hypocrisy. Orton's career was cut tragically short when Halliwell bludgeoned Orton to death with a hammer, before overdosing on Nembutal in the 16' x 12' one-room flat that had been their home.
The creative team for Loot includes set designer Keith Mitchell, lighting designer Christine Ferriter, costume designer Michael Mullen and properties designer Josh La Cour. The assistant director is Bo Powell and the stage manager is Laurien Allmon.
Founded in 1969 when Ron Sossi decided to demonstrate that experiment-oriented theater could have populist appeal and be fiscally solvent while maintaining the highest artistic standards, the Odyssey continues to explore, produce and present works on the forefront of contemporary theater art in its three-theater complex in West Los Angeles. The 2019-20, 50th anniversary "Circa '69" season is an exciting retrospective of seminal theater works that inspired the Odyssey at the time of its inception, a rich time of experimentation and exploration when the theatrical soil was fertile both here and abroad.
Performances of Loot take place on Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. from June 8 through Aug. 10 (dark July 19-21). Additional weeknight performances are scheduled on Wednesday, July 10; Thursday, Aug. 8; and Wednesday, July 31, all at8 p.m. Tickets range from $32 to $37; there will be three "Tix for $10" performances, onFriday, June 14; Wednesday, July 10; and Friday, July 26. Friday, June 14 is "Wine Night": enjoy complimentary wine and snacks and mingle with the cast after the show.Friday, July 12 is "College Night" and includes a pre-performance student reception with themed catering as well as a post-performance discussion: $10 with valid student ID (use promo code COLLEGE).Additional discounts are available at select performances for seniors, students and patrons under 30; call theater for details.
The Odyssey Theatre is located at 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., West Los Angeles, 90025. For reservations and information, call (310) 477-2055 or go to OdysseyTheatre.com.