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Alberto Saporito is an aging Italian everyman who runs a hand-to-mouth rental business with his brother, Carlo, and lives in a building where everybody knows everybody else and all the doors are left open. One day Alberto accuses his neighbors, the Cimmarutas, of murdering his pal Aniello, who's disappeared. Alberto claims to have seen some damning documents; he knows where the body is buried, he says, and where the Cimmarutas stashed Aniello's bloody clothes. But when the evidence fails to materialize, Alberto considers the possibility that what he thought was a murder was really just a particularly vivid dream.
It's too late, though. Real or not, folks see the murder as a way to advance their own agendas. And so the backbiting begins. Each member of the dysfunctional Cimmaruta clan comes to Alberto in turn, pointing fingers. Aniello's wife howls, an ingratiating friend wheedles, the cops ask questions, and even brother Carlo works the angles. It's hilarious, until it's not.
Written in 1948 and brought to Chicago by a consortium of Italian theater companies, under the aegis of Chicago Shakespeare Theater's World's Stage program, Inner Voices is easy and instructive to see as an allegory for all the ways Italians found to betray one another during World War II, and for the psychic cost of those betrayals afterward. But it hardly needs a historical gloss to give it power. Filippo's script is slyly written, and Servillo's staging makes the most of it, ambling along among the whiners, kibitzers, and eccentrics—nobody feels well, everybody's got their mishegas—until it turns lethal in the final passage, as if drawing a Beretta from a crumpled old coat. Harmless as they look, the actors are all accomplished assassins.
Non-Italian speakers must suffer through a translation conveyed by supertitles, but the inconvenience is worth it.
Through 6/29: Tue-Sat 7:30 PM, Chicago Shakespeare Theater, Navy Pier, 800 E. Grand, 312-595-5600, chicagoshakes.com, $50-$70.