Seattle Center, Intiman Theatre, 206-269-1900, $10-$42 7:30 p.m. Sun. and Tues.-Thurs.; 8 p.m. Fri.-Sat.; 2 p.m. matinees Sat.-Sun. and Wed., Nov. 13. ends Sun., Nov. 17
PLAYWRIGHT JOE ORTON meshed blunt anarchy with sharp wit, and in doing so paved the way for every mouthy British export to hit big with a popular audience. Intiman's take on Orton isn't the grabber it could be and may be aimed too confidently at that popular audience. Loot feels like accessible anarchy now—which may or may not be what Orton intended—but, damn, it's funny, and if the two women sitting in front of me who left at intermission after some mild silliness concerning a lost eyeball are any indication, the play hasn't completely lost its punch.
Loot is wonderfully "simple" farce punked up with a corrosive edge. Young Hal (Daniel Eric Gold) and his lover, Dennis (Michael A. Newcomer), have pulled a bank job and decide that hiding the profits in the coffin of Hal's about-to-be-buried mother is the natural thing to do. Add Hal's widower father (SeᮠG. Griffin), nefarious nurse Fay (Nick Garrison), and suspicious "Water Inspector" Truscott (R. Hamilton Wright); combine with Orton's Wilde-ian disdain for social hypocrisy; stir with manic machinations; and there's your night.
I don't know that director Craig Lucas has the best handle on the style—lowering the lights during melodramatic monologues doesn't work, and by the way, which era are we in? He's fluent, though, in Orton's dark whimsy and seems to be snickering happily in the background throughout. He's let the cast in on his delight: After an uncertain first half-hour, which feels in a rush to let the games begin (and boy, do the accents get dodgy then), the performers get caught up in the cackling mischief, and by Act II they are drunk with it.
Does Garrison's drag act engender a fully distinct character? Well, no, I guess it doesn't, not really, though it's not camp, either. Is he funny? Oh, god, yes. He knows exactly what to do between the jokes, and you can't look away from him; you picture him continuing to lend his deceptively daffy star presence to, oh, any number of clever comic heroines, and it makes you very happy.
Both Gold and a charismatic Newcomer make their dim impudence shine, Griffin is terrifically befuddled, and, above all else, R. Hamilton Wright busts out with an expansively funny character turn (it's his best work yet).
Look—any number of minor aesthetic matters are spotty here. But the thing really starts to fly on its collective energies, and can you carp about a flawed production when it works so well? Sure. And you'll be right. Or you can laugh.