Hollywood Fringe 2019
Three-person troupe shines in Dario Fo and Franca Rame playlets.
Death and the Fool is one of the three contemporary adaptations from Dario Fo and Franca Rame’s Mistero Buffo presented by Fiasco Physical Theatre in their Hollywood Fringe debut.
The Blind Man and the Beggar is the first piece, performed by the engaging Yulie Archontaki, who brings a European ring of authenticity to the enterprise. The physical characterization is detailed and precise and she has an easy rapport with the audience, though is not afraid to challenge us.
The second piece is Lazarus, performed by Moses Norton.
Death and the Fool is the closing piece, performed by Kent Jenkins as Death and Archontaki as the fool.
The director Erin Leigh Crites collaborated with Fo himself in Milan and the adaptations retain the social and political intentions of their origins. In this fringe setting however, it is easier to just enjoy the skill and novelty of the physical story-telling. There was an unnecessary disclaimer about not wanting to cause offence before proceedings got underway, plus a casual pre-show piano-accordion singalong with Jenkins, who successfully turned us into the choir who were going to be preached to. If a mirror of satire was being held up to us, we didn’t recognize ourselves.The danger is that art that was designed to be immediate and hard-hitting becomes seen as something rarefied and precious.
The trio were all dressed in white cotton, giving them a slight other-worldly feel.
I felt that having two one-person shows and one two-hander was a surprising choice for the three-person troupe but each piece was strong in its way and the sold-out house I was part of clearly enjoyed the show.
Houselights stayed on throughout, in an attempt to replicate the feeling of the street theatre that the work pays homage to, and the performers maintained an energy level that would have stopped people wandering off if they could.
Death and the Fool might be an acquired taste, but it is a welcome dish on the Fringe smorgasbord.