Dated Italian political farce doesn't resurrect well at all

(From left) Liam Castellan as Inspector Bertozzo, Eric Scotolati as the Maniac, and Harry Slack as the Constable in Curio Theatre Company's "Accidental Death of an Anarchist" by Dario Fo.
(From left) Liam Castellan as Inspector Bertozzo, Eric Scotolati as the Maniac, and Harry Slack as the Constable in Curio Theatre Company's "Accidental Death of an Anarchist" by Dario Fo. (KYLE CASSIDY)
Posted: December 13, 2011

How do you say dated and boring in Italian? Oooh, wait, wait, I know, I know: Dario Fo. Curio Theatre is giving the Italian farce-meister a revival with its production of Fo's Accidental Death of an Anarchist, only to prove that this highly political comedy is thoroughly mired in postwar European issues and thus irrelevant to contemporary American audiences and, as a consequence, is desperately unfunny.

Half absurdist, half commedia del arte, this indictment of police brutality involves a lot of slapstick, with fake walks, fake wigs, fake accents, and fake fighting. That the madman is the only politically sane character was an overworked conceit long before this play beat it to death.

Using a translation by Gillian Hanna and adapted by Gavin Richards, the production makes an awkward attempt at updating, by adding an Obama rant near the end, after which one character notes that Obama was 9 years old when Anarchist was written. Director M. Craig Getting needed to rein in his actors, especially the talented Eric Scotolati, who plays the Maniac and who overdoes everything, as does the play.

The plot involves an official investigation into the death of an anarchist who fell to his death from a fourth-floor window after a police interrogation. Whether he was the bomber responsible for many deaths cannot now be known, since the police involved (played by CJ Keller, Leonard Kelly, Liam Castellan, and Harry Slack) keep inventing new versions of what happened in an attempt to exonerate themselves.

The Maniac, in various disguises (a psychiatrist, a judge, a forensic expert with a wooden leg and an artificial hand), manipulates the moronic cops into revealing their guilt. A journalist (Rachel Gluck) turns up with a liberal ax to grind and a generous bosom to reveal.

The actors go off script in cutesy ways, which seems to encourage bad behavior from members of the audience who offer opinions and raucous laughter. All in all, a most annoying evening.


Accidental Death of an Anarchist

Presented by Curio Theatre Company at 4740 Baltimore Ave. Through Jan. 7. Tickets $15-$20. Information: 215-525-1350 or www.curiotheatre.org.


Follow Toby Zinman on Twitter at #philastage. Read her reviews at www.philly.com/phillystage.

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