Accidental Death of an Anarchist | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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Accidental Death of an Anarchist


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ACCIDENTAL DEATH OF AN ANARCHIST, Splunge Productions, at Zebra Crossing Theatre. Dario Fo's tightly written political farce is an ambitious choice for a new company: its hairpin twists and sophisticated clowning require a deft touch to avoid the trap of a Three Stooges approach. But the gleefully energetic Splunge Productions keeps the play's satire plummeting forward, thanks to Marianne White's intelligent direction and Michael Butler Murray's multilayered performance as the Fool, a classic European political clown role created to disrupt the precarious narrative we call "reality" onstage and off. The play--updated to reflect contemporary American scandals and censorship--reams state systems that promote mediocrity and suppress resistance, as the supposedly insane Fool infiltrates the police department and lays bare the truths behind the death of an innocent anarchist accused of setting bombs.

Murray's star turn is carefully choreographed: each impersonation becomes a ridiculous mask layered on the others. The hidden layers can reappear in an instant, however, depending on the play's puns and the Fool's own deceptive buffoonery. Winking at and laughing with the audience, the Fool includes us as his coconspirators. And yet the other delightfully idiotic characters, whose faults and fascism come to light in the play's illuminating confusion, are our mirrors as well.

This production is a rare treat: the company's enthusiasm is matched by their skill and an excellent script. Don't miss it.

--Carol Burbank

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