The problems with Oracle Theatre’s “Accidental Death of an Anarchist” reflect the problems with anarchy itself. Where it seeks to be wild, it comes off as manic and sloppy. Where it aims for joys of freedom, it instead seems bewildered and abandoned. Where it wants to stick it to “The Man” it only ends up sticking itself in the eye. True to the spirit of playwright Dario Fo, this production is offered free of charge through Oracle’s Public Access program. And yet I still cannot recommend that anyone go see it. This production is sadly, sub-ironically, painfully unfunny. The plot, despite its numerous twists and turns, is fairly simple. In Milan, Italy, in the year 1970, a certifiable madman (Holly Cerney) brought in for police questioning on very accurate charges of illegal impersonation, sneaks away from her interrogator, dons the persona of a visiting judge and begins to her own investigation into the titular death of the titular anarchist. Her anti-authoritarian hijinks soon drive the unwitting Inspector Pissani (Brian Hurst) and Police Commissioner (Victoria Gilbert) a little mad themselves, as the three seek to concoct a more “plausible” cover story for why the anarchists obviously intentional death was, in fact, an “accident.” Cerney’s lead performance as The Madman really, in many ways, mystified me. She is obviously a strong actress, as she makes clear choices and commits to them with gusto. It’s just that every choice she makes here drags the show to a halt. Her delivery has a halting, staccato pace to it, with sizeable pauses in between sentences. It defies all sense of comedic pace or timing and takes a show that should probably be a trim hour forty-five and pushes it well past two. But ultimately it is up to the director, in the case Oracle’s A.D Ben Fuchsen, to correct these sorts of actor decisions. But the complete lack of focus and control that Fuchsen displays with this piece is disheartening. There is not only the lumpy pacing, but there is also the inappropriately, harsh, German-expressionist lighting, the fumbling neo-noir character intros, the cramped, jerky staging and the in-artfully expressed meta-commentary.
The only real compliment I can give this production is that it embodies the spirit of anarchy more than it could ever hope to: specifically why true anarchy does not ever work.