¡ANARCHIST! | Review by Robert W. McDowell


Based on a scandalous real-life incident involving a suspect in a bank bombing who jumped — or was pushed — from a fourth-floor window at a police station in Milan, Italy in 1969, Nobel Prize-winning playwright Dario Fo’s absurdist comedy ACCIDENTAL DEATH OF AN ANARCHIST (Morte accidentale di un anarchico) is a savage satire with more bite than a backyard full of pit bulls, a la Michael Vick, circa 2007. By contrast, ¡ANARCHIST! Little Green Pig Theatrical Concern‘s madcap adaptation of Gillian Hanna’s translation of Dario Fo’s incendiary 1970 indictment of brutal police interrogation methods — owes more to Marx Brothers comedies than Karl Marx, even though cast members wearing bushy black Groucho Marx-like stick-on eyebrows and bushy black stick-on moustaches that sometimes slip or fall off act more like the Three Stooges than the 1930s and 1940s kings of comedy, as anarchy reigns supreme on the Common Ground Theatre stage.

Little Green Pig artistic director Jay O’Berski and his erstwhile companion in comedy, Jeffrey Scott Detwiler, delighted Triangle audiences 10 years ago with their outrageous antics in Shakespeare & Originals’ world-premiere production of Chatham County playwright Michael Smith’s absurdist comedy A MOUTHFULLA SACCO AND VANZETTI. In ¡ANARCHIST! O’Berski plays a wily impostor called the Maniac, initially arrested for impersonating a psychiatrist. First, he fools the thick-as-a-brick Inspector Bertozzo (Geraud Staton); and then he convinces Bertozzo’s colleagues that he is a judge sent to investigate the suspicious death of the title character while in police custody.

Detwiler plays hapless police Superintendent Fistacchio, but is a dead ringer for Charlie Chaplin in his Little Tramp makeup. So, watching Detwiler as Fistacchio exchange verbal barbs with his arch-nemesis, O’Berski as the Maniac, has added resonance. Transactors Improv Company members Jeff Alguire as Inspector Pissani and Dan Sipp as Officer Lettuchio/Spinnachi (“lettuce” and “spinach” in Italian) eagerly embrace director Tom Marriott‘s all-slapstick-all-the-time approach to the material, and Page Purgar is amusing as nosy journalist Maria Feletti, a bloodhound of the Fourth Estate who scents something wrong at police headquarters but gets caught up in the monkey business that the Maniac unleashes to confuse the police into confessing that the anarchist’s death was no accident.

Rather than tie ¡ANARCHIST! to alleged prisoner abuse in Guantanamo Bay or at Abu Ghraib, director Tom Marriott turns the cast loose to have a field-day, ransacking the files of the police station and flinging their contents out into the audience. It is great fun if you’re a middle-schooler; but if you’re an adult looking for a thoughtful update of this classic farce, you won’t find it at Common Ground Theatre when ¡ANARCHIST! completes its two-week run this weekend.

Little Green Pig Theatrical Concern presents ¡ANARCHIST!, an adaptation of Dario Fo’s ACCIDENTAL DEATH OF AN ANARCHIST, at 8 p.m. May 19-22 at Common Ground Theatre, 4815B Hillsborough Rd., Durham, North Carolina 27705.

by Robert W. McDowell

Robert McDowell is editor and publisher of Triangle Theater Review of Raleigh, NC. This review is reprinted with permission from Triangle Theater Review.

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