Theater review: 'Locked and Loaded' at the Santa Monica Playhouse
It's always distracting when you can hear the cogs of self-conscious cleverness grinding behind a playwright's conceit. In the West Coast premiere of “Locked and Loaded” at the Santa Monica Playhouse, playwright Todd Sussman is so cheeky and free-wheeling that it often seems as if he is skewing his plot into pretzel shapes just to accommodate a convenient one-liner or two. That and Sussman's subsequent segue into confessional angst give the play an unfortunately haphazard quality.
But if you can turn a blind eye to the dramaturgical randomness, you're likely to enjoy a succession of satisfying belly laughs. A veteran actor himself with an intrinsic sense of comic timing, Sussman has crafted four juicy roles upon which director Chris DeCarlo and a talented cast feast freely.
Irwin Schimmel (Paul Linke) is a TV comedy writer whose brash patter camouflages deep sadness. His Odd Couple-esque pal, Dickie Rice (Andrew Parks), is a mega-wealthy patrician whose unshakable urbanity is a hedge against his own bitter disappointment. Both are suffering from terminal brain tumors and have rented a luxury hotel suite (James Cooper's nicely detailed set) for one last blow-out before committing suicide.
Granted, the characters — mouthy Jewish jokester, repressed WASP, gold-hearted hooker and feisty black tranny — are brass-plated stereotypes, but the performers, particularly the rollicking Linke, flesh them out to believable proportions — no mean feat, considering the peregrinations of Sussman's overwrought plot.
— F. Kathleen Foley
“Locked and Loaded,” Santa Monica Playhouse, 1211 4th St., Santa Monica. 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 3:30 p.m. Sundays. Ends April 16. $21-$26. (310) 394-9779, ext. 1. Running time: 1 hour, 30 minutes.
Photo: Sandra Thigpen, Paul Linke, Terasa Sciortina and Andrew Parks costar in "Locked and Loaded." Credit: Cydne Moore.