“They Don’t Pay? We Won’t Pay!” in review

Tenzin Uden, Campus Life Reporter

From Sept. 27 through Oct. 2, the Harper Joy Theatre showed its first play of this semester: a political satire called “They Don’t Pay? We Won’t Pay!” Originally written by Italian playwright Dario Fo in 1974, the play was written in response to the inflation in the prices of necessary goods needed for survival and the corporate greed that drove millions into poverty. This play focuses on the everyday life of the working class who can no longer afford to buy food. When they are left with no options, theft and robbery become their only solutions for survival. 

The play begins with characters Antonia (played by senior Zoe Schacter-Brodie) and Margherita (junior Lucy Dickinson) conversing about Antonia’s experience at the supermarket, where a protest began as shoppers were infuriated by the recent price inflation. The protest escalated into a market sweep, as shoppers decided that if the prices were not going to be fair, they were not going to pay anything at all. 

Even when the police arrive, the shoppers don’t stop looting. This crowd includes Antonia, who sees this a good opportunity to feed herself and her husband Giovanni (sophomore Ategeka Musinguzi), an impassive factory worker. She shares some of the food she got with her friend Margherita, whose husband is Luigi (junior Benny Vasconcelos), a naive, but skilled, worker. They realize that their husbands would never accept stolen food, so as the play goes on, they must hide the stolen goods – under the bed, in the oven and even in fake stomachs that make them look pregnant. The women must create more and more lies to hide the food from not only their husbands, but the police (seniors Luke Patrick and Gillian Brown).

Throughout the play, Fo adds comedy to the script by introducing simple comedic elements, such as the imaginary “Santa Eulalia,” whom Antonia makes up to explain the false pregnant bellies; the coffin, where Giovanni and Luigi hide their own stolen goods; and the quick-changes of one actor (Patrick) from policeman to trooper to gravedigger to father-in-law. 

The entire play was a mixture of lots of comedy and drama. What made the production so successful was the competence of the actors and the hard work of everyone that was a part of the show behind the scenes. Sitting right in front of the stage put audience members right in the action in the intimate black box space.

Some enjoyable components included the set, lighting and the costumes, especially those worn by Luke Patrick. I spent the whole time wondering how the actor, who was playing multiple roles, was able to change his clothes so quickly. I was sitting right next to his parent, and at one point I even asked the parent if there were twins onstage. 

With almost 80 people in the audience, the laughter was constant and maintained the fun overall atmosphere inside the theater. While doused in comedy, the production still managed to get across important main takeaways, including the negative externalities caused by inflation and unpredictable corporate or factory amendments.