Evil Can Be a Funny Thing: Three Must-See Plays Go to the Dark Side

The very funny Tim Hyland (Chief Inspector Pissani) and MJ Sieber (The Superintendent) in "Accidental Death of an Anarchist," showing through August 4

These plays produced by local companies are dark, political and complex. But they also made us laugh out loud. Catch them before they’re gone.

Accidental Death of an Anarchist
Strawberry Theatre Workshop
What it’s about: Nobel Prize winning playwright Dario Fo wrote this comedic take on conspiracy and revolution in the 1970s; but despite the many pairs of polyester pants strutting across the stage, it doesn’t feel a day older—or a minute out of step—with contemporary concerns. The story follows a mentally unstable (or highly enlightened, you have to decide) man who infiltrates a corrupted police department and attempts to unfurl the mystery surrouning a man's unfortunate defenestration. Directed by Seattle transplant Gabriel Baron, this is seriously high-caliber comedic performance. Stand out talent: Local actor Ryan Higgins (The Maniac) breaks at least one rule of gravity in his hilarious and stunning physical performance, and then completes the world’s most ridiculous costume change under a desk. Also: he knows how to work it with a fake hand. We’re still wondering if he’s actually crazy—or just super human. We also love: Greg Carter’s set design: a sheer cliff of old filing cabinets that seems to want to cave in on us all.
Ongoing  through August 4. Thursdays-Sundays, 8:00pm.  Erickson Theatre Off Broadway, 1524 Harvard Ave.; strawshop.org

Dirty Story
Intiman Theatre
What it’s about: The egotistical, spiritual and sexual hang-ups of four characters blur together into a fleeting, but visceral, connection to the age-old conflicts that have caused so much suffering in Israeli and Palestinian cultures. This riveting, dangerous allegory written by John Patrick Shanley accomplishes an incomprehensibly difficult thing: half way through its own story, the play strips away characters and plot lines and begins to build something totally different. Also: it dares to poke fun where no one, perhaps, has poked before, portraying countries at war as behaving like petulant children. Don’t be fooled by the first scene, which feels at first like the setup for a glib romantic comedy. You have no idea what fun—and powerful insight—you’re in for until the end of Act One when things take a funny and scary turn. But don’t be afraid: director Valerie Curtis-Newtown knows what she’s doing. Stand out talent: Shawn Law (Brutus). Because he doesn’t miss a beat as he moves at high speeds between delivering dense philosophy, slapstick humor and barely restrained rage. We also love: Quinn Franzen’s hilarious performance as Frank, a tough talking but insecure cowboy with a penchant for selling cigarettes and weapons.
Onging through August 25. Times vary, see website for schedule. Intiman Theater, 201 Mercer St., intiman.org

Romeo & Juliet
Intiman Theatre
What it’s about: (Like you need me to tell you.) Young love swallowed up in a maelstrom of violence and unfortunate timing. Except this old familiar tune feels fresh as imagined by director Allison Narver, bringing the shame and sadness around so much needless violence to the forefront—along with some excellent sword fighting and Shakespeare’s own special brand of toilet humor (brace yourself for lots of pointed flashlight…pointing). Stand out talent: Timothy McCuen Piggee (Lord Capulet). Because he makes the confusion around parenting and, later, the devastation of losing a child heartbreakingly real. Meanwhile, Marya Sea Kaminski upstages just about everyone with her hilarious and stiff postured take on the Nurse. We also love: Jennifer Zeyl’s set, the perfect understated backdrop to the confusion of scenes that makes up this story. Also: the memorials to the dead hanging on fences, printed on actors clothing and projected on the wall. This R&J is loud and clear on one point: this is no old-fashioned love song.
Ongoing through August 26. Times vary, see website for schedule. Intiman Theater, 201 Mercer St., intiman.org


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