Loot, Dramatist Revolutionary Army, at Wing & Groove Theatre. The song that accompanies the curtain call in this able production–the Rolling Stones’ “Paint It Black”–brilliantly summarizes Joe Orton’s entire body of work. This quintessentially British playwright was obsessed with sullying the inviolable: marriage, love, sex, death–nothing escaped his stringent judgment and biting wit. Loot is a complex farce that combines Pinter’s abstracted reality with Stoppard’s mathematical precision: clearly it’s one of Orton’s most fully realized and blackest works. The list of crimes committed by his characters–murder, rape, robbery, extortion, and bribery–is enough to make even the most contemptible soul seem downright puritanical.

Director Jaimie-Lee Wise and the cast do an excellent job of conveying Orton’s menacing, gritty tone; the performances and direction are sharply etched. If Wise has erred, it’s in underemphasizing the play’s comedy and pacing the play too deliberately. At times the six actors–who often prove themselves adept at evoking nuances with a wide range of facial expressions and gestures–play their characters with too much restraint. And a curiously inflexible interpretation of the script undermines the effectiveness of its social satire: under Wise’s guiding hand, this is a pungent, engrossing production but not quite the razor-sharp farce Orton intended.

–Nick Green