We Won't Pay! We Won't Pay! | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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We Won't Pay! We Won't Pay!

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We Won't Pay! We Won't Pay!, Piccolo Theatre, at Noyes Cultural Arts Center. Economically pinched housewives have staged a riot at the supermarket and looted it for groceries, which they must now conceal from the police. Antonia and Margherita come up with an assortment of hastily contrived alibis too preposterous to be believed by anyone but their terminally gullible husbands, employing such reliable ruses as fake pregnancies, bogus divine intervention, and contraband smuggled in a coffin.

The humor in Italian playwright Dario Fo's 1974 satire could easily have eluded Americans in 2001 if Piccolo Theatre director John Szostek hadn't chosen to set this production in the parallel universe of The Honeymooners. Given the familiar personalities and mannerisms, Fo's often overwritten dialogue sprints along, and the actors find rhythms and melodies in Ron Jenkins's breezy colloquial translation that render the subtext always coherent despite an abundance of inventive physical and verbal shtick.

Ken Raabe and Deborah Craft anchor the screwball action as the squabbling Giovanni and Antonia, ably supported by Courtney Hester and David Kelch as their next-door neighbors and Scott Allen in multiple roles (including both the good and bad cop). At two hours, We Won't Pay! We Won't Pay! coasts a bit in the third quarter. But this athletic ensemble rallies, regaining momentum while bringing home Fo's message about inhumane authorities and citizens driven to absurd extremes.

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