Richard Hamburger

Truth, justice and laughs! Farce delves for meaning with slapstick and satire

by Tom Sime / The Dallas Morning News

Both Robert Dorfman, star of the Dallas Theater Center’s Accidental Death of an Anarchist, and director Richard Hamburger studied clowning early in their careers. “We both, independently and not knowing each other, went to Ringling Brothers’ clown school,” says Mr. Hamburger. And both were hired by and traveled briefly with the circus.

That background in slapstick helps inform their work in Anarchist, which Mr. Hamburger calls an “extraordinary hybrid” of physical comedy and social satire.

“We’re trying as much as possible to base the slapstick in…what actually happened, in the search for the truth,” he says of the farce by Italian provocateur Dario Fo, who based his comedy on a real-life incident in which a political prisoner was flung from a window in what Italian police called a suicide.

“Going through the various versions that were offered immediately following and through the subsequent weeks, some of them are hilariously funny. And often they’re acted out, to show their preposterousness,” says Mr. Hamburger. “And that’s where this strange mixture of brutality and hilarity comes in.”

“Aside from the Stooges sort of clowning, I think the great comedians are interested in truth, justice and laughs. And Dario Fo has said that the best clowns are deeply hungry for something,” says Mr. Dorfman, who plays the Maniac, a character who tries to get to the bottom of the incident by impersonating various participants. The dizzying array of “truths” that result make the play both funny and disturbing.

“That’s the great experiment: How do you talk about important things in a truly gleeful, hilarious way? What comes out? What happens?” Mr. Hamburger says. “That’s the challenge of Dario Fo. Sometimes there are all these points of view that are very, very, very political, and we’ve got to make it live.”

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