The Capitol Hill Arts Center is going to try something new—a farce. After staging the social realist works Death of a Salesman and Waiting for Lefty earlier this year, CHAC will close its season with Archangels Don't Play Pinball, by the Nobel Prize–winning satirist and sometime game-show director Dario Fo (Accidental Death of an Anarchist, Orgasmo Adulto Escapes from the Zoo).
Archangels follows Tiny, an underdog who runs with a gang of petty schemers and pet thieves. He falls in love and decides to clean up and make an honest living. He begins his quest trying to claim his veteran's pension. Not surprisingly, he runs into resistance and starts his clash with bureaucracy when his government file identifies him as a dog. From there, the play launches Tiny through a series of adventures and comic vignettes that veer from a dog pound to a train robbery.
"It's a very early piece by Fo, but it's one of my favorites," said Matthew Kwatinetz, Archangels director and CHAC's artistic director and CEO. "It's a romp that doesn't get on a pedantic horse."
The play opened in Milan in 1959 and broke every box-office record in the history of Italian theater, but this may be your only chance to see it in America. Archangels has never been produced in New York and the CHAC team only found records of three U.S. performances.
"It's a tough play," Kwatinetz said. "It's very physical and jumps through very different comic worlds—there's a wedding, a heist, an inauguration, government bureaucrats forming a choir. Each vignette is a whole play in itself and the actors have to jump between characters in rapid succession and sell each one. I wouldn't even think of attacking it without a cast like this." Kwatinetz has assembled a promising lineup of comic actors and musicians, including Mark Boeker, Gabriel Baron, and Karen Gruber.
Archangels has the socially critical content that made Fo famous, but this play, according to Kwatinetz, puts the comedy first. "This is different for [CHAC] and an indication of the direction we're headed in," Kwatinetz said. "We've done a lot of brooding, heady stuff and this is a farce. We've learned a lot from audience response and don't want to be that preachy, intellectual theater. We just want to do good work that brings the community together and is accessible to as many people as possible."
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Also upcoming: the first Sh!tstorm, this Tuesday at the Rendezvous—an impolite free-for-all on the state of Seattle culture. I'll present the evening's bone of contention (pull the plug on terminally ill arts institutions!) and Charlie Rathbun (of 4Culture) will rebut, slicing my impertinence to rhetorical ribbons. Then we'll open the floor to the tipsy mob and close with a sing-along to "Don't Fear the Reaper." Like any good, honest public debate, Sh!tstorm should be enraging, edifying, and occasionally riotous. ■