I once met a woman who bragged about her "booster box," a contraption she wore under her dress to look pregnant. A dedicated shoplifter, she smuggled ill-gotten gains in it.
Nobel Prize-winning playwright Dario Fo's We Won't Pay! We Won't Pay! makes use of the same device. Cripple Creek Theatre Company has brought Fo's 1974 class-concious comedy to a church on Grand Route St. John.
The play is set in Italy in the '70s. A working-class family's apartment is crowded with a bed, table, kitchen sink, stove and portrait of the pope. Antonia (Jennifer Pagan) and her friend Margherita (Jessica Lozano) are tired of being squeezed by the free enterprise system, so they fight back by stealing the food they can't afford. Antonia's husband Giovanni (Andrew Vaught) is scandalized by the idea. "It's better to die of hunger than break the law," he says. He also is stunned to see that Margherita is pregnant, since her husband, his assembly-line co-worker, Luigi (Nicholas Hyatt) hasn't mentioned it.
We don't see the criminal activity, only the aftermath involving the women and their husbands at home. This all takes place in a slapstick, larger-than-life style reminiscent of commedia dell'arte, although it also seems to reflect the agitprop theater of the San Francisco Mime Troupe.
Reality gets intensely and deliberately warped sometimes to score a political point or get a laugh, but we are meant to sympathize with the proletariat. The grocery rebellion threatens the powers that be, so the police begin a house-by-house search for the food-liberators. When a second woman in the neighborhood uses the same pregnancy scam to hide her loot, the police inspector marvels at the fertility of lower-class women.
We arrive at a "workers of the world unite!" finish with raised fists and an appropriately socialist anthem. Under Raymond Vrazel's direction, the cast brings a great deal of enthusiasm to this curiosity. On the night I saw We Won't Pay, the audience laughed often and heartily. I had mixed feelings, but I was pleased to be able to see a rare production of a Fo work. — Dalt Wonk
WE WON'T PAY! WE WON'T PAY!
Directed by Raymond Vrazel Jr.
Starring Jennifer Pagan, Andrew Vaught, Jessica Lozano, Nicholas Hyatt and Alden Eagle
8 p.m. Thu.-Sat., Feb. 5-7
Mount Calvary Fellowship Church, 2900 Grand Route St. John, 891-6815; www.seeaplay.org