Loot at Intiman Theatre
Also see David's recent review of Macabaret
Seattle has several really treasurable actors in the 40 year and older realm, many of whom have either been mainstays here for some time or have settled in Seattle as a comfortable place to practice their mature talents. Younger actors, however, tend to depart at the drop of the first hot offer, which makes the recurring presence of Nick Garrison, who in his late twenties has firmly established himself as one of the most distinctive talents on area stages all the more reason to cheer.
Garrison's latest triumph is in Joe Orton's black comedy Loot, director and playwright Craig Lucas' very satisfying local directorial debut. In an era when far more scandalous behavior can be viewed on television in the comfort of one's living room, Orton's farce about a pair of bisexual bank robbers, a murderous nurse, a beleaguered old widower, and a suspicious local water company official (who turns out to be a corrupt cop) seems pretty tame. There is also a rather varied realm of dialects on display, which makes it rather difficult to determine just what part of the U.K the play is taking place in. But Lucas establishes an ideal fast, yet not frenetic, pace for his adeptly cast company of actors to soar with this loopy tale of larceny, perversion, and murderous intentions.
Going back to Garrison, this is hardly the actor's first role in skirts (he was most recently Anne in the Empty Space's Valley of the Dolls), but as the eerily cheery and efficient Nurse Fay who dispatches husbands (and patients) faster than you can say "bedpan," Lucas has controlled Garrison's occasional excesses and elicited one of the best performances on a Seattle stage this year, regardless of gender. With a twitter and a gesture of surprise, he effortlessly brought the opening night house down.
If many of Orton's best lines in the play are given to Fay, the rest of the cast does bloody well by what they're given. Veteran character actor Sean G. Griffin is hilarious and even rather touching as the recent widower who has a house full of robbers, including his own son, to deal with. As the bank robbing boyfriends Hal and Dennis, Michael A. Newcomer and Daniel Eric Gold are appealingly quirky. R. Hamilton Wright as the corrupt lawman Truscott gives his patented R. Hamilton Wright crowd-pleasing performance in the kind of role this man can do in his sleep. Wright is thoroughly professional here, but there is nothing surprising or original in his characterization. Kelland Lindsey bumbles effectively in his brief role as a bumbling cop who looks to have wandered in from an old Mack Sennett silent comedy.
John McDermott's set is delicious in its sheer lower-middle class seediness, especially in act one when a comical array of odd funeral wreaths adorn the stage. Frances Kenny's tawdry costumes, particularly a slinky black mourning dress for Garrison, are also in keeping with the fun. Lighting designer Ben Stanton has a marvelous effect which heightens certain key, wonky plot points in the proceedings.
All told, this Loot is a merry enough slice of dark comic ham, but Garrison is what makes it a must-see. Whatever future may beckon elsewhere, one hopes this resourceful, inventive and fearless young talent will always make a point of returning to Seattle's stages on a regular basis.
Loot at Intiman Theatre, 201 Mercer Street, in Seattle Center runs through November 17, 2002. For further information, go the Intiman website at www.intiman.org.