Theater review: ‘Locked and Loaded’ at the Santa Monica Playhouse


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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.

Sussman’s dark comedy takes a metaphysical twist with the arrival of two highly unusual hookers (Terasa Sciortino and Sandra Thigpen, alternating in the role with Tarina Pouncy), who soon take the evening into unanticipated directions.

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.