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EMAV Review: Cockroach Theatre's "Anarchist" is brilliant madcap mania ★★★★★

Updated: Mar 8, 2019

★★★★★ - Irresistible

Cockroach Theatre is presenting a new adaptation of “Accidental death of an Anarchist” by Dario Fo. The Italian-born playwright was the recipient of the 1997 Nobel Prize in Literature and was best known for his comedy criticizing everything from government to the Catholic Church. This new adaptation by James Sandlin Ashby is farcical but you won’t find any slamming of doors. This is more in the true spirit of Commedia dell'arte (a popular form of early Italian play) wherein the cast and audience are in on the jokes, and improvisation is welcome.

Deftly directed by Allegra Libonati, the production is full of vivid sparks, colorful fireworks, and madcap mania. It is, in short, a brilliant production.

From the moment you are escorted into the venue you are immersed in the experience and the laughter starts. It rarely lets up. But, I warn you this is not the type of farce where you want to lose focus – you’ll miss some of the gags. A scene change might make you think of the old “Batman” TV series, a scene may remind you of a Three Stooges bit, and some characters may harken to mind “The Pink Panther”’s Inspector Clouseau. All of it will both remind you about the current dour reality of our world and make you forget it at the same time.

Brett Alters as Maniac heads the superb cast. His physical comedy is great, and using sleight of hand manages new surprises at every turn. His comedic timing with a line, punching the punch line with wrinkled, brow brings this performance to a new level. He easily slips from one character to the next with a wink and a nod. And, lest you begin to doubt the validity of the jest, he’ll drop the ruse just long enough to make sure you pick it back up.

Christopher Brown (Deputy Chief), Annette Houlihan Verdolino (Commissioner), Brian Sloan (Bertozzo), Jillian Austin (Journalist), and Brent Mukai (Officer) round out the superb cast. They not only support Alters, they support one another in a waterfall of comedy. I would find it difficult to extoll the ways in which each actor shines.

The production values from Jesse Soper’s scenic design to Rosalie Chaleunsouck’s sound design are top notch. Rising above are the props of Rebecca Sass. Yes, she deserves special notice and you’ll realize why when you see this show.

There are so many things that I refuse to let you in on because it would spoil the experience. You’re going to have to fully trust me on this one. If you’re looking for fun and laughter, look no further.

When: 8 p.m. Thursday – Saturday; 2 p.m. Sunday through February 10

NO PERFORMANCE on February 1 due to First Friday.

Where: Art Square Theatre, 1025 S First St, #110

Tickets: $20 - $25 (, 725- 222-9661)

Producer: Cockroach Theatre; Artistic Director: Daz Weller; Director: Allegra Libonati; Scenic Design: Jesse Soper; Lighting Design: Ellen Bone; Sound Design: Rosalie Chaleunsouck; Cosume Design: Abby Stroot; Props: Rebecca Sass; Production Stage Manager: Marni Lewis

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