Opening Nights: We Won’t Pay! We Won’t Pay!

We Won’t Pay! We Won’t Pay!

Cornish Playhouse at Seattle Center, 201 Mercer St., 726-5190. $20–$50. Schedule varies; see Ends Sept. 15.

Pruned and repositioned after its financial crisis, Intiman opens its second summer festival with Dario Fo’s farce about life in an exploitative, inflationary economy. The gambit is eye-poppingly colorful and nimbly physical, rooted in the commedia dell’arte tradition from which Fo gleaned seeds of political radicalism. The controversial Italian playwright’s intelligently ridiculous 1974 examination of whether looting is justified under a corrupt regime feels timely in our era of unprecedented income inequality. Although you’re unlikely to knock over Met Market after the show, this affable agitprop may get you thinking about what it means to open your wallet.

Thinking aside, it’s plain funny. Two housewives stagger in the door dripping with groceries that one of them, Antonia (the delightful Tracy Michelle Hughes) had “donated” to herself during a customer-declared free-for-all at the supermarket. Antonia drags her B-52-haired friend Margherita (Kylee Rousselot) into the cover-up plot, which involves concealing the loot in a fake pregnancy. Soon their law-abiding but equally loony husbands Giovanni (Burton Curtis) and Luiggi (G. Valmont Thomas) smell trouble about the suspicious impending birth. Director Jane Nichols deftly articulates the quick beats that can be so easily muddled in a farce. When flamboyant state troopers (Adam Standley and Skylar Tatro) arrive for a house-by-house search, the comic stakes of each gesture are entirely clear. Jennifer Zeyl’s Pepto-pink and lemon-yellow kitchen set, plus Deb Trout’s clowny costumes, suggest a playfulness that belies the play’s thematic sophistication.

It’s exciting to see the cost-cutting festival launch with such a high degree of professionalism and coherence. (Intiman’s other three summer offerings cluster around the inadvisable dinner-party topics of money, sex, politics, and race.) Especially given that several of the performers here have major roles in simultaneous runs, the quality of their work in this first-up play is really noteworthy. If the festival’s subsequent productions maintain this level of wit and workmanship, 2013 will be a memorable year for the evolving Intiman brand.

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