“They don’t pay? We won’t pay!” makes their appearance on stage

Nick Sallen, Editor-in-Chief

Desperate times call for desperate measures.

“They Don’t Pay, We Won’t Pay” is a political satire comedy which combines the worker’s uprising of Italy in 1974 with a 20th century radical democratic perspective from the workers who are outraged by the increased price of many goods.

The production centers around two couples who steal groceries amidst utter pandemonium at the supermarket, the hilarious ways they think of to hide the stolen food and how they can take revenge on the establishment after being screwed over by those in power.

Written by Dario Fo, a nobel prize winner of Literature, “They Don’t Pay, We Won’t Pay” follows the ancient Italian style of theater productions known as commedia dell’arte, a form of theatre which utilizes props and is characterized by fixed personas such as foolish old men, military officers full of false bravado or spouses blinded by love.

I was surprised at how many times the fourth wall was broken (acknowledging the audience). Typically I am against it, but the fourth wall was broken at clever times.

The first time came during a scene change, when the actor proclaims the change while pulling the curtain across the stage.

The funniest moment of the whole play came during another wall-breaking moment, when the cast questions how eerily similar the two cops and Giovanni’s dad look, implying they are the same person and the theatre doesn’t have the means for more performers.

A long and narrow stage in the basement of the Burtness Theatre allowed the audience to be very close to the performers, which helped me immerse myself into the story.

From this start, there is constant physical disorder and loud verbal commotion and the rage of people unable to pay their bills because the system is set against them.

The chaos only expands when Giovanni and his friend Luigi are made to believe in miracle pregnancies and several levels of police investigation on where the stolen food might be and who might have stolen it.

The law enforcement is performed by two actors, although one actor plays two police characters as near doppelgangers; one a socialist who supports the workers, the other with a fake mustache who pays a price for his anti-worker attitude.

“They Don’t Pay, We Won’t Pay” is performed with just five UND theatre students — Joseph Picardi, Ashley Restemayer, Auroura Eckberg, Cole Bakke and Tyler Folkedahl. Everyone involved did an amazing job.

Picardi and Restemayer stood out to me as they performed wonderfully together as Giovanni and Antonia, with high-energy throughout the whole night and a bag of funny punchlines when both tried to hide information from each other during the chaos.

Folkedahl’s performance should also be mentioned. He impressed by performing nearly all of the side characters.

In one scene, he would start off as the socialist cop, then quickly attach his mustache to play the other cop before finishing the scene as Giovanni’s elderly father.

Since coming to UND, I have been to two theatre productions in four years. With how much fun I had on Tuesday, I foresee myself attending more productions this year.

“A Man of No Importance” is the next production by the theatre department. It will be showing Nov. 10-12 and 17-19 at 7:30 p.m.

The musical is a story of family, friendship and acceptance which combines the depth and drama of a play with the lyricism and comedy of a musical. 

Nick Sallen is the editor-in-cheif  at The Dakota Student. He can be reached at [email protected]