Anarchy is a two-act play for five men and three women about the trial and execution of Sacco and Venzetti The simple unit set has a Judge’s bench UC a couple of steps up with a witness stand beside it. Other locations—jail cells, exercise yard, offices, interrogation rooms, a courtroom, a theatre, a hotel room—are created with a few chairs and tables. There are no breaks between scenes and no set changes. As the play begins, Sacco and Vanzetti are on chairs left and right in circles of light and we hear a fusion of interrogations with the voice of the unseen Inquisitor asking them about riding in a car with a gun. They deny knowing the people they are asked about and insist they have done nothing wrong. John Rhys Pendragon, a journalist, sits in a chair next to Sacco, saying that he wants to write about him for newspapers. The light on Vanzetti goes out as Sacco tells Rhys that he writes lies. Rhys says he has been fired several times for writing the truth and he just wants to tell their side of the story. Sacco explains why he lied to the police and tells Rhys about his friend Salcedo who was thrown by the police from a seven-story window for being Italian in the wrong neighborhood. He says they needed a car to dump their Anarchist literature but the car wasn’t ready and then he and Vanzetti got arrested going home on the streetcar. He asks Rhys how his wife and children will be fed if he is in jail and tells him to write about his “rights.”
Sacco leaves and lights come up on Mrs. Johnson in the witness chair. She answers the Inquisitor’s questions, saying that the Italians who came for the car seemed nervous and that she feared for her life. She wonders when she will get her reward. The light fades on her and comes up on Rhys arriving in his hotel room where his daughter Anne is waiting for him. She wants her father to get her in to see Sacco and Vanzetti so she can write about them. She says she will never see him again if he doesn’t help her. Lights fade on them and come up on Angelo Guidobone in the witness chair. The Inquisitor’s voice asks about Guidobone buying a fish from Vanzetti on Thursday, April 15th. The light fades on the courtroom and comes up on the prison with Sacco and Vanzetti talking with Rhys and Anne. Sacco talks about doing plays about truth to raise money for the strikers and teach people about the oppression of the workers. We hear the sounds of a concertina and a drum as Rosa, Sacco’s wife, enters carrying a baby doll and a man’s hat. She puts the hat on the ground, saying that she and her husband have written this play to help striking workers. Sacco puts on a false mustache and hat and picks up a cane. Rosa asks for help for her starving child and Sacco tells her that her husband should go back to work if he wants their child to eat. He says that Italians were born to be slaves but she says that the workers will conquer all oppressors of the people. There is scattered applause as she finishes and as Rosa and Sacco bow a Poor Woman puts a coin in the hat and the lights fade on them and come up on Vanzetti explaining to Anne how Judge Thayer ignored contradictory evidence and bragged about it at a football game. We hear football music as lights come up on Judge Thayer in the stands, cheering for Dartmouth and speaking to an unseen person beside him, describing “those anarchist bastards” as “murdering opera singing ceiling painting cheese grating ararchistic greasy dago wop sons of bitches” that he wants to hang. The light switches our attention to Sacco in the witness chair explaining to the unseen Inquisitor that he was in Boston at the time of the shooting. Then Anne asks Rhys about her mother and says they have to find a way to save Sacco and Vanzetti. The two men are seen playing bocce in the prison yard as Vanzetti tells Sacco about the Puritans and the Pioneers, both of whom hated art because was an investigation into truth and they were sure they already knew the truth and just wanted to make money and kill people. He says they want to kill them because they’re Italians and ask questions. Sacco says he tries to remember his wife but his memories are mixed up with grief. He says he hasn’t slept with her for seven years; Vanzetti says that he has nobody. Sacco says he will kill the judge when he gets out and refuses to sign the appeal that Vanzetti has worked on. Vanzetti leaves and Sacco is left alone as we see Rhys reading a typescript that Anne has written. He tells her it’s very good but that she needs to put the most important thing up front. She calls him old=fashioned and storms out. He smiles as the light fades on him and comes up on Rosa berating Sacco because he won’t sign the paper. He says they are going to kill him no matter what he does. Lights fade on them ending Act One.
Act Two opens in the prison visiting room with Medeiros, a prisoner, telling Rhys that he was in the car during the Braintree robbery and Sacco and Vanzetti were not there. Medeiros says that two Italian guys did the shooting and Polish guy was driving the car. He wants Rhys to tell somebody. We hear birdsong and see Judge Thayer with pruning shears singing as he works in his garden. Rosa enters and shows Judge Thayer a picture of her son and daughter, asking how he can be so evil. He says he preserves order by destroying the natural world and tells her to go back with her children to whatever filthy sewer she crawled out of. He leaves her standing as lights come up on Rhys in a cell with Joe Morelli. Rhys tells Morelli that a witness described Joe’s gang as the ones who committed the Braintree murders. Morelli says Sacco and Vanzetti will be executed no matter that he says, and Rhys is just trying to get a story to sell more newspapers. Rosa tries to persuade Sacco to eat something and he finally agrees to have some soup that she pours out for him. Anne thinks that Sacco and Vanzetti are completely innocent but Rhys tells her not to get so emotionally caught up in the story that she only pays attention to the evidence that supports her version. He says she has to be open to both sides of any question. He says he thinks Vanzetti is probably innocent but he isn’t sure about Sacco. But he must write only what he knows, not what he believes. He leaves, saying he has an appointment with the governor to try to persuade him not to murder Anne’s friends. She runs after him. We see Governor in his office calling out to someone offstage about not letting “that son of a bitch John Rhys Pendragon” in to see him. He turns and Rhys is already there, asking that Governor at least commute their sentence, but Governor tells him to get out of his office. Rhys leaves and Governor looks over at Vanzetti, sitting, asking why Governor has come to see him. Governor says he wants to know the truth and Vanzetti tells him they got convicted because of who they are not for what they did. Lights come up on a jail cell in Boston with Anne and Dorothy Parker. Parker tells Anne that her father is the best and loves his daughter more than life itself. Rhys enters and tells Anne to leave because he has bailed her out. Parker tells Rhys that Anne is going to be just like him. Lights fade as they both leave and we hear birdsong as lights come up on Sacco and Vanzetti in the prison yard. Rhys and Anne enter and Sacco says he and his friends are soldiers, not murderers. Anne gives Vanzetti a copy of King Lear and Vanzetti says Americans want to kill life every place they find it. Lights fade on them and come up on Judge Thayer at night staring into the flames that are burning down his house. Sacco and Vanzetti appear next to him and Judge Thayer realizes he is having a dream. But Sacco and Vanzetti strap him into the judge’s chair and put a metal helmet on his head. We see “Horrible Frankensteinian flashes of electricity and buzzing” as lights flicker on and off. Judge Thayer shakes back and forth and screams in agony as the lights black out.
Rhys, drinking, tells Anne that he put her in a very expensive school so she would not be taken from him when her mother died. She says she hates him but he folds her in his arms as she cries and the light fades on them. The plays ends as Rosa, in a small circle of light, speaks to her unseen son, telling him to always remember his father and how brave he was and what his life meant. “They can’t kill you forever as long as somebody remembers.” The light fades out.