Ready for some black, black humor?

Live Theatre Workshop dishes it up with Joe Orton’s “Loot.”

Humor was dark and dangerous in Orton’s hands, and not much was sacred when the late playwright put pen to page.

A little insight on the farce, which opens in previews tonight:

The beginning

“Loot” hit the London stage in 1965 and immediately caused a stir. Outraged audiences got up and left. Reviews were abysmal (“A very bad play,” said The Cambridge News), and the cast was not happy — after one performance, an actress left the stage in hysterics and had to be sedated.

What a difference time — and a few rewrites — make. Orton took about a year to reshape the play, cutting it, refocusing it, upping the darkness.

“The most genuinely quick witted, pungent and sprightly entertainment by a new young British playwright for a decade,” the Sunday Telegraph crowed. The London Evening Standard named it the Best Play of 1966. “Loot” became the most successful of the plays Orton wrote in his short writing career — he came on the scene in 1964 and died in ‘67.

The story

A couple of thieves, Dennis and Hal, rob a bank and tuck the money away in the coffin of Hal’s dead mother, resting soundly in the parlor room of the home she shared with her now-grieving husband. Trying to assuage his sorrow — and to win his hand in marriage — is the nurse who cared for his wife. Then the over-the-top crazy Inspector Truscott shows up. As the thieves attempt to hide and then rehide the money-and-body-laden coffin, chaos descends.

The targets

Oh, Orton had so many targets when he wrote. This one takes aim at religion, law enforcement, how death is treated in society, and corruption.

Reasons to see it

Well, it’s Orton. And “Loot.” Two excellent reasons to catch the play. Also, Annette Hillman is directing — she has a way with comedy. And the cast includes a few masters when it comes to making us laugh: Stephen Frankenfield, Rhonda Hallquist and Michael F. Woodson.

Contact reporter Kathleen Allen at or 573-4128.