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|A CurtainUp Los Angeles Review
Elizabeth: Almost By Chance a Woman
By Ariana Mufson
Dario Fo is a brilliant playwright, director, costume designer, Nobel Prize winner, and provocateur extraordinaire. He has incited wrath from many places, including that of both the Italian government and Reagan administration which banned him from entering the US until 1985.
Fo has created extraordinary pieces that force us to question the world through a useful comic tool: satire. In Elizabeth: Almost By Chance a Woman one of his characters tells us "…that there is absolutely no subversive satire in this play that could in any way be construed as being critical of the United States." This is precisely the stuff that makes for good satire. Unfortunately, it takes more than that to create a successful production.
Like Shakespeare, whom the play's Elizabeth criticizes as an agitator, Fo's work is not only difficult to perform but painful to view when it goes wrong. This production never taps into the brave and sardonic nature of Fo's work. While the actors do their best, they appear to have different takes on Commedia Del'Arte, Fo's art form. This causes the play to become haphazard. The directing instead of helping hinders the actors even further so that many of thm hit one note, failing l to find the depth and humanity in their characters. Though Commedia is meant to be presentational, this should never take away from character interactions and emotional moments, nor should it preclude a naturalistic approach . In fact, given that the cast is good at cracking jokes and engaging the audience, it seems odd that the director would choose to allow them to heighten their voices to a single tone which at times creates what seems like an on stage shrieking match on stage. It would have been so refreshing to have seen the actors vary their line readings and, in addition, be allowed to really use the stage instead of remaining stationary and static.
Elizabeth: Almost By Chance a Woman could have a deep resonance for today's audiences as it not only applies to the Reagan administration but our current political situation. It's too bad that it falls into its own trap by not revealing any satire that could criticize the United States and providing little to engage us.
Retold by Tina Packer of Shakespeare & Co.
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