The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey premiered this Saturday night a zany political farce, with one of the funniest and best second acts of the year. The play, Accidental Death of an Anarchist, is by the Italian playwright, and Nobel Prize for Literature winner (1997), Dario Fo. The translation from the original Italian script is by Ed Emery.
When Fo won the Nobel Prize, the Committee called him “a writer who emulates the jesters of the Middle Ages in scourging authority and upholding the dignity of the downtrodden.” In Accidental Death of an Anarchist Fo masterfully uses comedy, largely of the slapstick variety, to make important social and political statements about his native Italy.
The story is of ” Maniac”, a compulsively role-playing loonie (or is he?) who has been in and out of mental institutions most of his adult life and cleverly seizes the opportunity to impersonate a judge re-investigating the case of an anarchist’s fatal fall from a fourth floor window while under police interrogation. The “Maniac’ skilfully and mercilessly dissects the cops’ inconsistent cover stories and generally outwits them at every turn.
Fo based the play on a true story; In 1969, Giuseppe Pinelli, a 41-year-old railway worker and anarchist, fell from the fourth story of a police station in Milan, Italy. He had been arrested in connection with a series of bombings, his death—or murder—inspired a wave of protests against an increasingly authoritarian government. Fo wrote Accidental Death in reaction to these events. Most of the information in the play is a dramatic reworking of the findings of the investigative journalists.
Playing the “Maniac” is Kevin Isola, whose outstanding performance earned a personal standing ovation from the opening night audience. This is his fourth season with The Shakespeare Theatre.
The others in the excellent cast, and all apparent masters of the Marx Brothers style of physical, screwball comedy, are Philip Goodwin, who returns for his second season with The Shakespeare Theatre, as the interrogator Inspector Bertozzo; veteran of 16 seasons with the company is Edmond Genest, who plays the Superintendent; Andrew Weems in his sixth season with The Shakespeare Theatre is the bumbling “Inspector in the Sports Jacket;” Jeffrey M. Bender, in his twelfth season, is The Constable. In her seventh season with the Shakespeare Theatre, Kristie Dale Sanders nicely plays the no-nonsense investigative reporter Maria Feletti.
The director of this hilariously funny production is Paul Mullins. Mullins’ production team includes; set designer Michael Schweikardt (his clever Second Act scene change from a second floor office to a fourth floor office was greeted with considerable applause), costume designer Jacqueline Firkins, lighting designer Shelly Sabel, and sound designer Rich Dionne.
The play runs about two hours and five minutes with a 15-minute intermission. The setting is the Central Police Headquarters in Milan, Italy 1970.
Accidental Death of an Anarchist is a truly funny farce with bite that cleverly provides a strong message about government corruption and incompetence. It features a wonderful cast of professionals…led by a marathon “maniac” performance by Kevin Isola. It clearly is one of the funniest shows of the year. Highly Recommended.
Reviewed by Rick Busciglio August 6, 2011
Accidental Death of an Anarchist is running now through August 28th at The Theatre’s Main Stage – the intimate F.M. Kirby Shakespeare Theatre. The F.M. Kirby Shakespeare Theatre is located at 36 Madison Avenue (at Lancaster Road), in Madison.
Tickets for Accidental Death of an Anarchist start at $32. Student Rush tickets are available a half-hour before curtain for $10 with a valid student ID. For tickets, call the box office at 973-408-5600, visit www.ShakespeareNJ.org.or email [email protected] Single ticket prices include a $2 facility fee not subject to discount.
For no more than the cost of a regular ticket, three Symposium Series performances are offered for each show and include a post-play discussion with the cast and artistic staff. Symposium performances for Accidental Death of an Anarchist will be Tuesday, August 9 at 7:30 pm, and Saturday, August 13 and 20 at 2 pm.
For each production, The Shakespeare Theatre presents the popular education program Know the Show. From 7:00 to 7:30 p.m., an artist from The Shakespeare Theatre will present a pre-performance talk that provides background information and an insider’s perspective onthe production.
Know the Show will be held on August 11th at 8:00 p.m. General admission is $5 for the general public, $4 for ticket package holders and subscribers. Tickets to that evening’s 8:00 p.m. performance may be purchased separately.
The 2 pm performance on August 20th will be audio described for those who are blind or have visual impairments. Audio description enables patrons with visual impairments to hear, through an FM transmitter, a live description of the action on the stage. A pre-performance sensory seminar is offered that allows patrons to feel props, costumes and set pieces to further enhance their live theatrical experience. The service is offered free of charge.