Blame "The Maniac" for the loads of laughter coming from the over the next couple of weeks.
"Accidental Death of an Anarchist," written by Dario Fo and directed by Paul Mullins, is now playing until Aug. 28 and causing nonstop hearty laughter among its audience members.
The farce play filled with energetic slapstick humor, originally written in Italian, takes place in 1970 in a Central Police Headquarters in Milan, Italy.
The story surrounds a man only known as “The Maniac,” played by Kevin Isola, who has recently been arrested for the umpteenth time for pretending to be all different types of aliases, such as a psychiatrist, lecturer and bishop to name a few, and Inspector Bertozzo, played by Philip Goodwin, diagnoses him with “performance mania.”
The Maniac openly admits to being insane and reveals that he has already been to the "nuthouse" 16 times. His greatest wish is to be a judge so he can play with people’s fates and gives himself the chance to become one when he returns to Inspector Bertozzo’s office when he leaves for a meeting.
The Maniac retrieves his own papers and then rifles through the rest of the office. He finds himself on the phone with another inspector who works on the fourth floor of the same building who reveals that a judge is on his way to ask questions about a case regarding a railway worker anarchist who apparently threw himself out of the superintendent’s window after being interrogated by the superintendent (Edmond Genest) himself and the "inspector in the sports jacket" (Andrew Weems) about causing a bomb attack on the railway.
The Maniac decides to get involved with the case and invents his judge persona. He proves his cleverness throughout the play as he comes up with ways to make two different versions of the same story plausible to help both the superintendent and inspector in the sports jacket protect their names because they are so concerned about their reputations.
This includes convincing them to do what he wants them to do no matter how outrageous, such as making them agree with the story that they, along with the Constable (Jeffrey M. Bender) and the anarchist, sang an Italian anarchist song to ease the anarchist’s tension.
As he makes up stories, points out their foolishness and causes them to reveal their police tactics, he shows that he can be more intelligent than them. They continue to trust him when reporter Maria Feletti (Kristie Dale Sanders) enters to discuss the anarchist's plunge, not knowing that he is a fraud all along.
According to Isola, whose delivery and energy is fantastic, portraying The Maniac brought him very “close to home.”
“I am the black sheep in my family," Isola said. "I stick out, which is what I share with this character."
He also considers the importance of comedy in theater. “Comedy is the best weapon," he said. "It is a grand tradition in theater, using comedy as means of subversion. This play really runs with this idea.”
The consensus among the apprentices, interns and various audience members is that they all agree that the play is hilarious. James Costello, Apprentice in the Shakespeare Professional Training Program, expressed his appreciation, saying it was “hilarious, definitely unexpected humor. Kevin did a fantastic job.”
“Extraordinary and well directed,” said Emmaline Keddy-Hector, a production management intern, “The character is brilliantly portrayed.”
“The ensemble as a whole is amazing,” added Lizzi Reams, another production management intern.
“Terrific, absolutely hilarious. We came from Massachusetts to see it,” said Nancy Brown, who came to support her daughter Erica who is an intern at The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey and also an assistant stage manager for this particular production.
Audience member Gary Ambrosi felt the play provided more than he expected.
“Classic comedy and more than what I expected," he said. "Two thumbs up. Great acting as well.”
"Accidental Death of an Anarchist" is very well done and humorous, constantly making you wonder what is going to happen next as you look forward to your next burst of laughter.