Abducting Diana

Dario Fo's "Abducting Diana" continues at Vagabond Players through June 26. In this shot, Andrea Bush, as the kidnapped woman, turns the tables on a kidnapper (Tim Craighead). (Ken Stanek, Handout photo / June 2, 2011)

The young theater ensembles around town haven't cornered the market on the edgy or the avant-garde.

The Vagabond Players, more readily associated with mainstream (or at least near-mainstream) repertoire, is closing its 95th season with a decidedly offbeat item, "Abducting Diana," by Italian playwright Dario Fo, the 1997 Nobel Prize laureate for literature.

It's a gutsy choice for the company, but the play, a combination of satire, farce and a dash of commedia dell'arte, seems to suffer in the translation. (The adaptation used here is by Stephen Stenning.)

The setting has moved from Italy to the D.C. area. The plot involves the amateurish kidnapping of a media mogul, the Diana of the title — at least the kidnappers think she's Diana. Whoever she is, she's a handful, especially when, focused on the publicity value of her plight, she turns the tables on the abductors.

Fo's writing takes aim at big media, big money and the political class. He goes in for some rough stuff along the way, verbal and physical (torture devices include electric shock and, yes, ice cream). But many would-be zingers are rather clunky.

It doesn't help that the production, directed by Michael Spellman, is a few watts short of optimum fire power. A more propulsive pace and snappier delivery by the actors would be welcome.

That said, Andrea Bush gives a mostly effective portrayal of the title role. And Tim Craighead, seemingly inspired by the nerdy Screech from TV's "Saved by the Bell," makes a particularly colorful contribution as Kidnapper No. 2.

"Abducting Diana" runs through June 26 at Vagabond Players, 806 S. Broadway. Tickets are $15. Call 410-563-9135 or go to vagabondplayers.org.

Tim Smith