At mid-summer, The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey is offering a rare look at a giddy Italian farce that boasts a hearty manic thrust. Accidental Death of an Anarchist, by Italian Noble Laureate playwright Dario Fo, is a freewheeling satire of an accidental death, deemed a suicide by Milan police. The broadly satirized interrogation and subsequent suicide was apparently based on actual events that took place after a suspected bomber leaped from the fourth floor window of a Italian police station.
Not so funny, you might say, yet Fo has crafted the events into a madcap spree that borders the savory frolic of a Marx Brothers comedy. The pivotal thrust of comic madness is delivered by Kevin Isola, who impersonates a priest and a high-court judge with a broadly and keenly defined loopy edge. As a masquerading legal mind he attempts to interrogate the police superintendent, a police inspector and an attending constable. At one point Isola, in a brilliant exhaustive turn, dons a masquerade with one leg, a prosthetic hand and a patch over his eye in a disguise that would challenge the likes of Inspector Closseau.
The actor is given well-tuned support from Edmond Genest as the flustered superintendent and Andrew Weems as a fumbling sporty inspector reduced to ruin. A dizzy independent newspaper reporter is played by Kristie Dale Sanders.
Director Paul Mullins has harnessed the comic madness and social commentary with a deft and knowing hand, never forgetting to let the lunacy run free and wild. The set design by Michael Schweikardt presents two floors of an Italian police station, crisply uncluttered with desk and file cabinets and those two large windows yawning for a leap to death.