By Marianne Donnelly
* Louisa May Alcott, courageous writer
* Nellie Bly, courageous reporter
* Janis Joplin, 1960's history with songs
Louisa May Alcott: https://youtu.be/e7kxxNmWBV0
Theatre and Travel Reviewer:
LVRTC • MuckRack • FB • Nevada Arts Council: schools and communities artists rosters 2019
Cockroach Theatre Company, located in the vibrant downtown Las Vegas Arts District, continues their exploration of socially relevant classics and new daring works with the staging of Dario Fo's "Accidental Death of an Anarchist”, now through February 10, 2019.
Top: Deputy Chief L to r: Officer, Maniac, Annette Houlihan Verdolino as Commissioner
This farcical, maniacal play about corruption in government couldn’t be more relevant. A man (Pinelli) has fallen to his death from a fourth floor police station window after being accused of planting a bomb. Did he jump, or, was he pushed? The cops want a cover up, but first they have to contend with a certified maniac-lunatic with a knack for impersonation.
Allegra Libonati (Harvard, MIT, American Repertory Theatre, Broadway, much more) directs this battle of "individual against the establishment" in a hilariously fast-paced adaptation, by Carnegie Mellon graduate, James Sandlin Ashby, of Dario Fo's script.
One of Las Vegas' favorite fools, Brett Alters (LeReve and The Piff Show), embodies the rubbery-lipped, incisive Maniac with perfect timing and comedic force. You will simply love his antics and spot-on characterizations of investigator, pastor, magistrate, war hero and others.
Alters is on stage the entire time and never lets the pace lag. Brett's deft, precise, subtle use of standard poses and colorizations from Italian commedia dell'arte is a joy to behold.
Dario Fo was a world-class practioner of the beloved commedia artform, which utilizes satirical jestering, specific facial and hand gestures, improvisation, stock poses by stock characters, which over the centuries are now recognized around the world, with or without, their classic masks. Fo won The Nobel Prize in Literature 1997 "as the only jester" to win a Prize for scriptwriting that scourges authority and upholds the dignity of the downtrodden..."
Deputy Chief (Christopher Brown), Maniac (Brett Alters), Officer (Brent Mukai)
The complexity of Fo is often reduced by directors to slapstick, but in Cockroach Theatre's production his clever words, even as adapted with some characters swapped, have been fully incorporated into perfect commedia. This,we thank director Libonati for! Everyone "gets the jokes" but for seasoned theatre afficinados, "histriones" by Brett Alters are sheer delicious delight! Dramaturg Ron S. Jenkins would love this production!
Brian Sloan as Bertozzo is a capable counterpoint to the Maniac's clever verbal tricks to unravel the truth of the death of the anarchist.
This play is based on circumstances and nuiances of an actual Italian murder mystery and in the opening we get glimpses of truths and half truths delivered in quick-change stories used in cover-ups. Indeed, the inspector on whom this character is based, was nicknamed the "window straddler" for his technique of placing suspects on the upper floor police windowsill to interrogate and intimidate them with insinuations to jump.
Christopher Brown as the Deputy Chief also aptly embodies the complexities of a superintendent's role. His tin soldier walk and pointed beard say much.
Annette Houlihan Verdolino as the Commissioner brings her NYU training to full use in a clever portrayal of the cheesy-face of power and shifting lies revealed in eyes.
Jillian Austin as the Journalist walks on as the powerhouse actress she always is. Her character was inspired by Camilla Cederna, a real-life journalist who investigated the case of anarchist Pino Pinelli's death. She uncovered police corruption and assisted Fo in his research for the play. Unlike the other comedic characters, the Journalist is a straight role. She is an accurate portrayal of an experienced journalist on a quest to reveal the truth. Through her line of questioning, Fo is able to bring up themes such as police infiltration, the government's strategy of tension, and the role of "scandals" in suppressing revolution. (Gradesaver, source)
Brent Mukai as the Officer plays the innocent, obedient, childlike constable role that represents the majority of us in the scheme of national social control. His subtext of concern for what is going on, his guarding his mouth to say anything against the authority, and his compassion for the anarchist are portrayed lovingly in Mukai's face.
On many levels this classic play pleases both the occasional patron and, more so, delights the connoisseur.
Jesse Soper's scenic design is perfect in allowing maximum space for movement while highlighting the window that in itself is a character of sorts. Ellen Bone's lighting is ample in casting a subtle "blue tone" reminiscent of governmental buildings' austerity.
Abby Stroot's costumes fit the characters' notes with a hint of hilarity.
The whole company and management team create a perfect evening as evidenced in numerous awards including being voted "Best of Las Vegas 2018”by The Las Vegas Weekly.
L to r Journalist (Jillian Austin), Maniac (Brett Alters), Commissioner (Annette Houlihan Verdolino)
This company is also a learning laboratory for children's theatre, hosts special commissions, as well as, collaborates with community organizations and businesses to serve beyond the black box. It successfully operates beyond its comfort zone. Hurrah!
For show dates, times, and ticket availability go to:
1025 South First Street
Las Vegas, NV 89101
Just off S. Charleston at Main Street on Art Way Street.