“We don’t want you to cry,” says stand-up humorist Caryn Bark as she introduces this program of monologues. “You can do that at men’s plays.” And comedy is indeed the dominant mode of this collection of women’s monologues–though it’s comedy with a savage bite. Adapted by director Sarah Tucker from a 1985 performance piece written by Italian radical satirist Dario Fo and actress Franca Rame, this series of soliloquies appropriates the forms of kitchen-sink drama, fairy tale, and Greek tragedy–genres used over the centuries to perpetuate the image of women as stoic sufferers somehow ennobled by powerlessness. Orgasmo Adulto Escapes From the Zoo (the title suggests that sexuality is a strange beast that causes considerable damage if it’s freed from captivity) portrays women driven to suicidal or murderous rages by their own biological and socially conditioned responses to men, marriage, and motherhood. Toni Bark, recalling a 1960s Sophia Loren character, is a sexy, slip-clad wife locked up by her husband in her own home for her own “protection”–though she’s still vulnerable to the intrusions of obscene phone callers, Peeping Toms, curious neighbor boys, and her husband’s brother. Kelley Hazen is a young mother who, in some remarkably candid mime, retraces the path that led her from marriage bed to obstetrician’s office, then reveals her desperation in a bizarrely funny and disturbing bedtime story for her newborn daughter. Motherly love takes on a different aspect in Faye B. Summers’s classical yet contemporary rendition of the tale of Medea, coolly planning her sons’ murder as punishment for her husband’s decision to ditch her for a younger woman. The actresses’ gutsy, emotionally open, highly physical performances lift the play’s provocative perspectives on sexual politics from rhetoric to raw reality. Cafe Voltaire, September 10 (3231 N. Clark, 528-3136). Tuesday, 8 PM. $5.

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