Beyond his considerable comedic instincts, this is due to his choice of material, often focused on promoting the solidarity of aÂ working class smothered by a heartless ruling elite. If unfortunate for Foâ€™s idealism, the persistence of the struggle lends his work a timeless quality â€“ particularly in the case ofÂ They Donâ€™t Pay? We Wonâ€™t Pay!
With wages depressed and the cost of living ever increasing, a group of women decide to take direct action by helping themselves to â€œfive finger discountsâ€ at the grocery store. They include Antonia (Hanna Bondarewska) and Margherita (Moriah Whiteman), whose capacity for direct action greatly exceeds their husbandsâ€™, Giovanni (Darren Marquardt) and Luigi (Mitch Irzinski). The men, ground into exhaustion by the low pay and tedium of their work, have a longer journey in imaginingÂ how to even begin meaningful rebellion. Giovanni, in particular, would go without food before considering picking up his wifeâ€™s brand of civil disobedience.
Despite itsÂ soaring social vision, the production is not nearly as sober as a Bernie Sanders keynote.Â Pay injects plenty of levity and even slapstick as the women adopt an elaborate ruse presenting Margherita is pregnant to conceal their grocery bounty when Giovanni unexpectedly returns to the apartment. Further shenanigans abound as the women scramble to conceal their thievery from police whoÂ conduct a mass sweep in search of the stolen goods.
Peter Orvetti plays a quartet of characters, distinguished mostly by modest costume changes. The most memorable and interesting is a police officer who,Â proud of his college pedigreeÂ during which he may haveÂ thumbed through some Marx in the library, adoptsÂ aÂ more nuanced view of whichÂ thieves the police should be investing their energies pursuing.
The talented cast brings enormous energy and spirit, particularly to the rolesÂ ofÂ the women feeling the rush to adoptÂ direct action as a means of putting food on the table. A little of the slapstick goes a long way, however, growing tiresome toward the middle of the second act. Indeed, one revision that I would welcome is a tightening of the pace. With an intermission, I felt the 2 and a half hour length was better suited to a story of epic scope â€“ rather than one primarily confined to a tiny apartment.The production design effectively captures the cramped frustration of the charactersâ€™ living space and makes effective use of the one other setting: a mural on a curtain depicting a range of ordinary laborers, circa 1930s. Itâ€™s the kind of image that evokes the art that dotted lobbies and corridors in countless buildings during the heyday of the Works Progress Administration. Now many of these images are fading by neglect and design alike.Â Witness the 2011 episode in which the Republican governor of Maine took aim at a mural in a government building depicting the stateâ€™s labor history, on the grounds it sentÂ an anti-business message. Â (It was the Department of Labor, no less.)
As the final moments ofÂ They Donâ€™t Pay? We Wonâ€™t Pay! allude, most of us who make our living from wages should see ourselves in these images and stories, even asÂ the clothing â€“ or the language -changes. We let them fade at our collective peril.
They Donâ€™t Pay? We Wonâ€™t Pay! . Written by Dario Fo. Translated by Jon Laskin and Michael Aquilante. Co-directed by Joe Martin and Danny Rovin. Cast: Hanna Bondarewska. Darren Marquardt. Moriah Whiteman. Mitch Irzinski. Peter OrvettiÂ . Set Design: Rachel Knoblauch. Set/Artist Painter: Julia Tasheva. Lighting Designer: E-hui Woo. Costume Designer: Sigrid Johannesdottir. Stage Manager: Xandra Weaver. Produced by Hanna Bondarewska for Ambassador Theater . Reviewed by Daron Christopher.