Low-graphic news index |
Friday, July 27, 2012 - Page updated at 05:00 a.m.
'Anarchist': 1970 Dario Fo comedy still packs a punch
By Misha Berson
Seattle Times theater critic
Theater review |
Strawberry Theatre Workshop's 2012 season opens with a blast from the past: "Accidental Death of an Anarchist," a 2005 hit for the company.
Gabriel Baron reworks his earlier staging of Dario Fo's antic political comedy with some actors from the earlier production and a revised version of Greg Carter's spot-on bureaucratic set.
Ryan Higgins is the new top banana, playing a loony prankster who beats corrupt Italian police at their own game. He's a whirlwind of manic energy in the role, but some restraint would yield more comic finesse.
Fo's 1970 activist farce was inspired by a political scandal in Italy, in a time of civic unrest and crackdowns.
Anarchist railway worker Giuseppe Pinelli either fell, or was pushed, from a window while in custody of the Milan police as a suspect in a fatal 1969 bombing. An inquiry ruled his death "accidental." (Ironically the real bombers turned out not to be leftists, but neo-fascists.)
Though its setup is more ideological, the play calls to mind recent police-brutality scandals in Seattle. But Fo's transgressive clowns are timeless, his truth-telling misfits modern versions of commedia dell'arte zanies.
The Maniac in "Accidental Death" (as he's named in the program) is a crazed buffoon all right — and crazy shrewd.
A serial impersonator and fabulist, he's arrested on minor charges but dismissed as too wacky to bother with. Then with diabolical glee, and a suitcase full of wigs and props, he sets the dense cops against one another, and exposes their culpability in a case like Pinelli's.
It's fun watching these vicious, vain dolts (enacted with great timing and brio by Galen Joseph Osier, Tim Hyland and MJ Sieber) get played by the Maniac, who poses as a judge and a shrink to tease out the truth.
Baron exploits Fo's open license to slapstick them up as a well-choreographed, Italiano 3 Stooges — bumbling, volatile and guilty as sin.
Rhonda J. Soikowski reprises the lesser role of a reporter, who is mainly an expositional and symbolic device. (The media does its job so poorly, a "maniac" is needed to crack the story.)
As for Higgins, he's in nonstop motion, wriggling from one outrageous guise and lie into another, as the Maniac lays elaborate verbal traps for his prey.
Though he gives his all, the actor doesn't differentiate enough between charades, or modulate his mugging effectively.
But Fo's wily escapade is a classic. And the dead serious ending lobs a cluster bomb of tough moral choices into our laps. For it's up to the citizenry to resolve conflicts between law and order, government transparency and secrecy, mercy and justice — in 1969 Milan, and in 2012 Seattle.
Misha Berson: firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright © The Seattle Times Company
Low-graphic news index
Graphic-enabled home page