Orgasmo Adulto Escapes From the Zoo, Trap Door Theatre. In its two-year existence, Trap Door has demonstrated a penchant for the absurd, the brutal, and the operatic, whether in the playwrights chosen (Witkiewicz, Genet) or the stories updated (Faust, Women Behind Bars). Aiming for the grotesque in all its Eastern European starkness, Trap Door has struggled to keep its bold gestures from degenerating into strident ham-handedness. The newest production, Orgasmo Adulto Escapes From the Zoo, is a collection of ribald quasi-feminist monologues by the renowned Italian creative team of Dario Fo and Franca Rame, and it represents a quantum leap forward for the company, in both theatrical sophistication and emotional nuance.

Tackling this volatile assemblage of eroticism, indignation, and dyspepsia is no easy trick. Originally a vehicle for Rame and subsequently adapted and performed in the United States by Estelle Parsons, Orgasmo presents nine women (six are included in this production) for whom sex, despair, and revulsion are rarely far apart. From the village girl whose lover “slobbers all over” her to the self-described whore detailing her acts of political terrorism to the abused housewife who admits that if she doesn’t play the radio loudly “there comes this desire to kill myself,” these women make us laugh for all the wrong, disturbingly familiar reasons. Under Daniel Taube’s direction, the cast unearths the real tragedies in these outrageous portraits. The performances are a bit labored at times but more often playful, straightforward, and subtly textured. It seems Trap Door has at last discovered the persuasive power of simplicity. –Justin Hayford

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Michael Hoffman.