Stage

Come and Fo
Orgasmo Adulto Escapes From the Zoo. Written by Dario Fo and Franca Rame. Directed by Michael Michetti. Starring Francesca Fanti. At the Marsh, 1062 Valencia (at 22nd Street), through Sept. 20. Call 826-5750.

Dario Fo is still an obscure name in San Francisco despite the Nobel Prize in literature he won last winter and the FoFest put on by a group of left-leaning theater types in the spring. I still run into people who don't know who he is. This is depressing, not only because Fo is so funny, but also because San Francisco has produced his work more often than any other American city. (In Nebraska they must think he's a phonics lesson, or part of a song in The Sound of Music.) So, briefly: Fo is the manic Italian satirist who's been writing anti-authoritarian comedies like The Devil With Boobs and Trumpets and Raspberries with his wife, Franca Rame, for decades. When he accepted his Nobel in December, he apparently had the Swedish Academy crowd helpless with laughter, displaying "the qualities shown in some 70 plays," according to the Associated Press, "a torrent of words, burlesque gestures and noises, and the sense that madness is overtaking the stage, followed by the realisation that Fo is a craftsman with icy control."

This is a good description of the final piece in the Fo quartet playing now at the Marsh. "We All Have the Same Story" starts with a woman lying on her back, legs in the air, chiding her lover to be gentle. It moves through an abortionist's exam (woman in the same position) and childbirth (legs up one more time) to suggest where and when and why women get taken advantage of. Then it moves into a fairy tale about a rotten-mouthed doll that crawls up a male computer programmer's ass and needs to be extracted by a midwife. After a digression through the woods with a dwarf who kills a red tomcat with his poisonous pee, the story lands, feet-first, on an elegant coda to the show. Francesca Fanti colors all the characters with passion and fine comic timing. The four pieces are monologues, but in her hands all the characters -- women, dolls, computer programmers -- have their own energetic lives.

The other pieces are "A Woman Alone," about a housewife locked in her flat, "Waking Up," about a flustered factory mother going to work, and "Monologue of a Whore in a Lunatic Asylum," a self-descriptive short that isn't funny at all but gives the show a grim street-toughness and weight. Fo is like Brecht, dead-on and hilarious when he sticks to lacerating power and privilege in the West, as opposed to shilling for a remedy. My only problem is with Fanti's own chatter between scenes, while she changes costume. Trying to explain the show's title (which I still don't really understand), she makes fun of our Latin words for sex organs, and puts male and female names in warring camps by trying to claim "prepuce" and "glans" are pompous, and "vulva" and "vagina" ugly, as if the sound of those words had something to do with a cabal of patriarchs and not with how she pronounces them to make her point. The rest of Orgasmo Adulto, happily, is more graceful with its politics.

-- Michael Scott Moore

Irresistible Miss
Miss Saigon. Directed by Nicholas Hytner. Starring Kristine Remigio, Joseph Anthony Foronda, Bonafacio Deoso Jr., and Steve Pasquale. At the Orpheum Theater, Market & Hyde, through Nov. 29. Call 776-1999.

Vietnam might be deeply etched in the historical archives as the United States' biggest imperialist, muscle-flexing screw-up, but it still works to get the masses to pull out their credit cards. This is exactly what Hungarian-French composer Claude-Michel Shsnberg and Tunisian emigre librettist Alain Boublil bet on when -- high on the success of their Les Miz -- they teamed up with wet-behind-the-ears British director Nicholas Hytner to retool Puccini's Madame Butterfly into Miss Saigon. The dynamic trio hit the jackpot. A dozen or so million people have seen it, and it's grossed close to a billion greenbacks. And no wonder: This is a real techno-pop tour de force -- a supercomputer variously controls life-size 'copter blades, a cruising pink Coupe de Ville, superwattage lighting, and a glacier's worth of dry ice -- that tells the tragic love story (well, more lust than love) of an American GI who falls for a beautiful Vietnamese bumpkin-cum-bargirl right before the U.S. turns tail in 1973.

The story is basic. As in the Puccini version, this is a white-boy-meets-exotic-Asian-babe story. But unlike Butterfly's hard-assed, abusive naval officer, Saigon's white boy, Chris (Steve Pasquale), has a heart. In the girlie bar where the action begins, he refuses to pay for and thus exploit a downtrodden whore. He wants something better, something "real," and he finds it in Kim (played by crystal-voiced Filipina Kristine Remigio), a fresh-faced near-virgin from the country. Kim is a little more emancipated than Puccini's Butterfly; she has decided her own fate, jilting her betrothed (Bonafacio Deoso Jr.) and turning to Saigon's only female moneymaking enterprise. This is her first night on the job, and her pimp, called "The Engineer" (Joseph Anthony Foronda, also Filipino), knows just how to tout her: "She's so tight, she squeaks." How can Chris resist? He and Kim share a night of soul-soaring, song-spouting love, and decide to marry.

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