“We Won’t Pay! We won’t Pay!” Produced for Intiman Theatre Festival

Discard your expectations before attending this play! It’s not theatre quite as you expect it. Instead it’s a conglomeration of farce, theatre of the absurd, slapstick, satire, and clowning, all built around biting social commentary. It’s typical of the controversial Dario Fo, Italian playwright and Nobel Prize winner, fighter for human rights and dignity.

Written in 1974, it was a response to Italy’s skyrocketing food prices and stagnant wages. Fo’s play begins after a grocery store revolt in which housewives have run amuck, grabbing what they can then running home without paying. His characters, Antonia (Tracy Michelle Hughes) and Margherita (Kylee Rousellot) are faced with a problem when they arrive at Antonia’s house. Her moralistic husband doesn’t condone theft. She has to hide the goods.

The first act buffoonery centers on her efforts to stash the cache from hubby and the police who make a house-to-house search. For me it’s played a little too broadly, and the humor seems a bit too contrived.

Things get much better in the second act where the tempo picks up, the ensemble truly meshes, and the laughs stream out in a torrent. Burton Curtis (dressed like a clown) and G. Valmont Thomas as the two befuddled husbands recognize that they are held hostage by minimum wage jobs, but what is there to do? Their wives’ effort to fight the system is causing mayhem for all.

The highpoint of the play is the encounter with a State Trooper played by Adam Standley, It’s a comic tour de force. Standley plays a number of roles, some of them concurrently, in an adroit bit of theatre magic, and he’s splendid in every one.

Many of Fo’s concerns resonate today in our country where chief executives of major corporations earn 206 times more than their workers. It’s this inequity that’s front and center in Fo’s play where the people are hungry for justice, but the common man seems to be out of luck.

See Intiman Theatre Festival schedule for dates, 201 Mercer St., Seattle; (info@intiman.org or 206 441-7178)

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