History of Western Theatre: 17th Century to Now/Italian Post-WWII
Dario Fo (1926-2016) is the most visible representative of end-of-century Italian theatre, featuring such black comedies as "Morte accidentale di un anarchico" (Accidental death of an anarchist, 1970). His comedies are characterized by a mixture of popular and more serious theatre.
"Accidental death of an anarchist"
Time: 1970s. Place: Milan, Italy.
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A madman is interrogated by Police Commissioner Bertozzo for impersonating a psychiatrist. He explains he has taken on several other roles in the past, calling his condition "histriomania". When Bertozzo leaves his office for a moment, the madman identifies himself over the telephone as the commissioner's colleague the and gives him misleading information about Bertozzo. As a result, the caller comes over to the police station and hits Bertozzo. The madman next takes on the role of a counsellor sent to investigate the suicide of a presumed anarchist by a fall from a window. The false counsellor interrogates a second commissioner and a prefect. He determines that the two men told the anarchist they had proof of his guilt when they had not and that they had lied to the media about the results of the interrogation. He tells them that the ministry of justice and the interior has suspended them. He utters desperate remarks on their situation while pushing them towards the window, then admits that the report is false. He next determines that the two men had untruthfully told the anarchist they had evidence that an acquaintance of his had engaged in other acts of terrorism. To lessen suspicions of guilt, the madman tries to make them admit that they encouraged him to reveal himself by tapping him in a friendly way on the shoulder, by saying anarchy will not die, and by singing left-wing songs. In investigating the actual suicide act, a police officer reveals that to prevent his death from falling he held on to his shoe so that it came off, but the madman points out that on the victim's body both shoes were on. A woman journalist is announced to conduct an interview on this matter. To help out the two men, the madman dons yet another disguise, this time as a colleague of theirs working in the police laboratory. The reporter determines that since no damage was found on the anarchist's hands, he was probably unconscious or dead before his fall. She next determines that the ambulance was suspiciously called before eye-witnesses saw him fall. It seems that the anarchist received a blow on the head after being told that the evidence presented by witnesses of his alibi was inadmissible. Commissioner Bertozzo returns and recognizes the madman disguised as his laboratory officer, but his colleagues try to shut him up. The madman next identifies himself to the reporter as a distinguished bishop sent to investigate the matter. To quiet Bertozzo, he injects him with a sedative. When Bertozzo takes out a revolver to defend himself, the madman tricks him into dropping it and then takes out a tape recorder with all the evidence he needs to expose both men.
Eduardo de Filippo
Eduardo de Filippo (1900-1984) reaches dramatic heights with "Il sindaco del rione sanita" (The local authority, 1960) about a man serving as the unofficial judge of legal or ethical conflicts.
Time: 1960s. Place: Naples and surrounding regions.
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Palummiello has just been shot by Nait for having attempted to steal from him his job and is being treated late at night by Dr Fabio Della Ragione. During the same night, Antonio Barracano's wife, Armida, was attacked by one of their dogs and conducted at a hospital by one of their sons. At the age of sixty-four, Fabio is tired of his job and consequently wishes to immigrate to America. However, he is dissuaded from doing after being warned by Antonio, who needs him to dispense medical treatment just as he himself dispenses justice as the local authority. Indeed, men in the region are in the habit of consulting the respected 75-year old man instead of relying on the police and the judicial system, which is the case of Vicienzo and Pasquale. Vicienzo borrowed money from Pasquale at an exorbitant interest rate so that he can no longer pay the principal. Antonio's judgment is that Pasquale, having obtained more than the principal, should pretend having received his money and forget about it, to which he agrees without protest. Antonio next handles the case of Palummiello and Nait. He lightly blames the former for trespassing to a new territory but blames more harshly the latter for not having consulted him before this happening, slapping him in the face for good measure. Antonio next hears the case of Rafiluccio, a man intent on killing his own father, Arturo, a baker, who will no longer have anything to do with him. Antonio suspends his judgment on this more complex case. He first resolves the question on whether the dog who bit his wife should be shot, concluding that, being trained as a watchdog, his wife is to blame for feeding chickens in the early morning hours. When Arturo arrives, he explains that his son is shiftless and lazy and so useless in his business. Having separated his property in three parts to his progeny in his lifetime, Antonio blames him for being so unfeeling towards a son, but without result. Since he is also unable to dissuade Rafiluccio from his purpose, he heads towards Arturo's shop and is stabbed in the spleen for his pains. "I had my pistol," Antonio explains To Fabio, "but I thought of my sons. If I shoot now, I thought, the chains of killings will stretch our to infinity." Instead, he invites the two along with others to supper and pretends that Arturo gave over to his son a large sum of money, to which Arturo submits. But when Antonio dies, Fabio reveals the plot, indifferent to the likelihood of impending massacres. "Perhaps destruction on this scale will pave the way for a different world," he avers, "a world that will have lost some of its gloss but will be that much fairer."
Clotilde Masci (1918-1985, also known as Francesca Sangiorgio) wrote "Le escluse" (The excluded, 1950) concerning the interactions between nine women and one man in a woman's boarding house. It is akin to Terence Rattigan's "Separate tables" (1954) in depicting loneliness and separateness in communal living conditions. Masci also wrote "Wedding eve" (1952) about a woman lying about robbing a jewelry store the day before her wedding and after the real thief is caught, weakly submitting to her husband and relatives. In "Sunset at dawn" (1955), a woman is physically abused by her husband but when he dies, her situation remains equally dismal as the result of the constraining state of widowhood. In "Fire on the rock" (1957), a woman enters into disastrous consequences after falling in love with her husband's brother. All these plays are characterized by the unfortunate circumstances attending women in and out of marriage.
Time: 1945. Place: Italy.
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Since Mrs Romualdi's husband is enamoured of a younger woman, she must knit twelve hours a day in a woman's boarding-house to pay her lawyer and get her money back from him in a lawsuit. She and other boarders, Paulette, Agata, Andreina, learn that a man will soon occupy an extra room in the house. Agata is irate. "I've never liked mingling with the opposite sex. Men are selfish devourers," she declares. Andreina is more cheerful about the prospects. Although her fiance writes to her every day, the letters are uninteresting. "He's just got three topics: my degree, his grocer's shop, and his rhinitis," she says. Mrs Giacometti helps the half-demented 90-year-old Mrs Teresina walk in and sit down, waiting for her son to return, though dead in the previous war. The owner, Mrs Bianco, explains that she is forced to accept a man because a new rule from the House Commission forbids a war veteran to be refused lodgings, all the more so since Daniele spent twenty months in a German concentration camp. "Let's at least hope he can dance the boogie-woogie and has a presentable face," Paulette lightly comments. "I hope not," Agata sourly retorts. "Men are odious and insolent by nature, but if handsome doubly so, unbearable." Bianco takes Teresina apart to ask her when she will pay the amount owed her. Since Teresina has no money, Bianco accepts her piano in exchange for two months rent. Bianco is aghast at the small sum she preciously obtained from Paulette for selling a diamond pin, asking to become from now on her new dealer in jewelry. A few months later, Andreina is smitten by Daniele's charms but no longer wants to miss university classes because he wants to go to the cinema, shows they get in for free thanks to her relations. However, afraid to lose him, she changes her mind after watching him flirt with the housemaid. After she leaves, he flirts with Paulette, from whom he obtains cigarettes. Although engaged to a rich cheese merchant, she nevertheless promises him more cigarettes should he come to her room that evening to chat. For their part, Romualdi has very rapidly knit a woolen jacket for him while Renata, a school-teacher, gives her old pupil free English lessons since he hopes to obtain a passport and immigrate to America. However, he has difficulty concentrating on the lessons. He is more interested in the jewels Teresina keeps in her room. Renata prevents the distracted old woman from going out and selling them herself, promising to take care of them and consult a jeweler to obtain a fair price. To attract Daniele towards Paris, Paulette now admits she separated from her merchant but has obtained from him a monetary settlement. She also promises to get Daniele a passport. On her part, Agata offers to try to get him a job at her office, a notion Renata strongly approves of. One evening, Agata proposes to Renata that they leave the boarding-house to live on their own, but she declines. As Agata leaves, a desparate Daniele knocks at Renata's door to be let in after strangling Teresina for her jewels. He wants to obtain the street-door key to escape, but the two are interrupted by Giacometti and Agata who have discovered the dying Teresina, followed by Bianco, Andreina, Paulette, and Romualdi, though the purpose of the latter's entrance is to obtain morphine for her stomach pains after being diagnosed with a terminal neoplasm. With the doorman on his way to call the police and Renata helplessly seeking to protect him, Teresina unexpectedly appears to mumble soothing words over a prostrate Daniele as if he were her son. Bianco orders Daniele out before the police arrive. He does so with hesitation. After Teresina dies in their midst, Renata can only return to her desk to continue correcting her students' school-work.