Chicago Theater Review: ACCIDENTAL DEATH OF AN ANARCHIST (Oracle)

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by Paul Kubicki on January 20, 2013

in Theater-Chicago

ACCIDENTAL DEATH OF A PLAY

Anarchy is not chaos. The former means “without law,” and the latter means “without form.” This is an important distinction to consider in a play that intends to make an argument for anarchy. After a government scandal, a schizoid anarchist poses as certain government officials to disrupt the government from the inside, and then calls the audience to action to continue his work. But Oracle Theatre’s Accidental Death of an Anarchist doesn’t seem to understand this distinction, leaving the audience to watch two and a half hours of unbridled entropy.

Paul Kubicki's Stage and Cinema review of ACCIDENTAL DEATH OF AN ANARCHIST at Oracle in Chicago

From the outset, the script is a liability. Jon Laskin and Michael Aquilante’s translation does not attempt to correct the structural flaws of Darian Fo’s original, Italian script (1970), which is already about an hour too long (the prolific Fo won the 1997 Nobel Prize in Literature). A few of Fo’s plays were based on improvisation, but most of them, including Anarchist, use commedia dell’arte as a comedic base. And in order for farce to work, the production must be tightly paced and grounded in reality but zany. Sadly, the performances are, across the board, mediocre. Director Ben Fuschen doesn’t rein his cast into the tightly knit ensemble needed to pull off an already messy play. All in all, we’re left with mostly shaky furniture shifting, under-rehearsed action, and anti-bureaucratic proselytizing.

Paul Kubicki's Stage and Cinema review of ACCIDENTAL DEATH OF AN ANARCHIST at Oracle in Chicago

Anarchist hints that it aims to give a theatrical voice to the waning, mixed-messaged Occupy Wall Street Movement, making a few unsubtle references to “the 99%.” And, given its dedication to public access theatre, Oracle would be the perfect place to do so. But Anarchist is just as inchoate and problematic in its messaging as OWS—the only real, discernable theme is the hackneyed “government is bad.” And, frankly, when a protagonist engages in more deception and violence than the government itself, I can’t help but wonder if Anarchist doesn’t completely undercut the only point it manages to reinforce. Do they really mean to suggest that this type of amoral, guerilla-bombing vigilantism is better than a corrupt bureaucracy?

Paul Kubicki's Stage and Cinema review of ACCIDENTAL DEATH OF AN ANARCHIST at Oracle in Chicago

Anarchist may, at times, possess a certain amateurish, “fuck the establishment” charm, but it quickly becomes clear that this is all the play has up its sleeve. It serves not so much as a rousing call to action for anarchy, but rather a cautionary tale that a little order goes a long way.

Paul Kubicki's Stage and Cinema review of ACCIDENTAL DEATH OF AN ANARCHIST at Oracle in Chicagophotos by Liz Sutherland
graphic design by Evelyn DeHais

Accidental Death of an Anarchist
produced by Tony Santiago at Oracle Theatre
scheduled to end on March 2, 2013
(no performances on February 8, 9, 10, 11)
tickets are free but donations are accepted
for reservations, visit Public Access Theatre

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