The 2019 Actors’ Gang production of “The Accidental Death of an Anarchist” is so rich with comedy, so dense with political calculation and so thick with the theatrical practices the Gang are famous for, I will be digesting the whole experience for quite some time. Accidental Death of an Anarchist is based on real-life events involving the Italian rail worker and anarchist, Giuseppe Pinelli, who died under mysterious circumstances while in police custody in 1969.
The lead character identified as “The Maniac” gets a performance from Bob Turton that is a reflection of how sane the insane can be. Utterly unafraid of either truth or consequences, he begins by breaking into a police station and explaining that he is afflicted with a kind of acting disorder that compels him to take on alternate identities. Turton keeps the center of the man while spinning through multiple characters as the action proceeds, a sense of distinction and nuance keeping each progressive name and job shift individual and still a part of the whole.
The Maniac, after a brief interrogation by Captain Bertozzo (Ethan Corn) finds an opportunity to feed the police some of their own medicine in regard to the death of the anarchist. With stolen files and stolen clothes, he puts Captain Adler (Adam J. Jefferis) and the Police Chief (Guebri Vanover) through an intense interview pretending to be their superior. Officer Dudak (Tom Szymanski) is the classic ‘second banana’ of the comedy, on hand mostly to be told to shut up by any or all of the others in the mounting hysteria to keep the story straight.
Complete insanity is brought to heel by the arrival of a journalist (Julia Finch) who has enough facts from eyewitnesses to call into the account almost every statement made by the police in regard to the anarchist. With multiple versions of the facts being put forth, the desperate climax looks to open a door for layers of interpretation. It’s an amazing work of theater from the performers and the writers.
Giuseppe Pinelli, the anarchist accused of the notorious Piazza Fontana bombing, was cleared of the charges after his death. The events that led to Pinelli’s death have never been revealed. Playwright Dario Fo, a Nobel Laureate in literature, wrote the play in 1970, and has had some excellent help from both translators Jon Laskin and Michael Aquilnte and the outstanding direction of Will Thomas McFadden.
McFadden perfectly combines the timeless tragedy of police brutality with the dark comedy of human nature. Keeping the ribald and the rude in step with the horror of oppression and tyranny, he gives his actors just enough scenery to chew without moving into melodrama or pathos. There is a lot to chew on.
Before the performance, there is a small gallery show in the lobby of artworks by both Dario Fo and Ralph Steadman.
Until March 9, 2019 at the Actors’ Gang.
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