In England, the evening was called "Female Parts," which Italian authors Dario Fo and Franca Rame did not like. So for the U.S. premiere two years ago at New York's Public Theatre, it was retitled "Orgasmo Adulto Escapes From the Zoo," an improbable name that comes from a scene in one of the four monologues in which a housewife muses on the embarrassing nature of the word "orgasm."
These four monologues (of 14 that Fo and Rame have written under this umbrella) are being performed by Horizons Theatre, the first nonprofessional group to get the American rights. Actress Estelle Parsons, who performed all four in New York and will be touring them soon, also adapted the English translation with the approval and assistance of Rame.
Parsons said that a friend of hers, playwright Oliver Hailey, sent her a copy of the script after seeing it in England, knowing of her interest in one-woman shows with a political bent. She then flew to Italy in search of the authors, without knowing where they were. "I had the name of an interpreter, but when I called him he said they had just gone on vacation," Parsons says. "I felt so foolish. Then he called back and said he knew where they were and he'd take me there."
Fo and Rame own a small farmhouse, and that is where she found them. They felt that the English translation "went more for the jokes," Parsons says. "A lot of the real feminist politics were gone in the British version." For example, the prologue to their version of "Medea" was cut in the British version, while both Parsons and the authors thought it contained affecting material about a woman being cast aside when she reaches middle age. Parsons' adaptation also concentrates more on character development than the British version, she says.
Although Parsons performs all the monologues herself, Horizons has cast several women to take the parts. "A Woman Alone" is about a housewife whose husband has locked her in their home with the baby and his paraplegic brother, where she is harassed by an obscene telephone caller and her one-time lover. "Waking Up" deals with a working mother who is so overburdened she can't remember her day off, and "Medea" is a rural version of the Greek story. "We All Have the Same Story" is a quasi-fable that talks about sex, abortion, motherhood and the place of women.
"This is the first time I've done something that speaks directly to women," Parsons says. "But in New York we did not get the ordinary male-female audience to the extent that I hoped we would. We got a very strange audience. Some people looked very rich, or there would be a man alone . . . I think it was people interested in serious theater. One night a man in the second row laughed himself sick, which I thought was the best audience I ever had, and the people around him started shushing him."
She kept the plays in an Italian setting, because many of the references have no direct correlation here. They were written for a working-class audience, for one thing, and, "It's hard to find a working-class audience here," Parsons notes. "They have a totally different attitude toward the government and the class system." But, she says, an audience not interested in the politics can still enjoy the humor. CAPTION: Picture, Evelyn Woolston, Maureen Burke and Susan Patz in "Orgasmo Adulto Escapes From the Zoo" at Horizon Theatre. Copyright (c) D. Kathleen Wright