Saturday, May 29, 2004

The Servant of Two Masters

If you had to choose one word to describe Acme Theatre’s delightful production of Carlo Goldoni’s “The Servant of Two Masters” it would be “silly.” One can only imagine the hilarity that must have ensued during rehearsals as the cast and director David Burmester worked out the action and updated the 1770 script to make it relevant to today

As my husband and I walked home from the Davis Art Center Outdoor Stage (the temporary home of Acme’s summer production, now that they have lost the Pence Gallery Stage), he would periodically start giggling and burst out with “It was so funny when...?.” or “didn’t you love it when...?”

It’s that funny a show.

There also isn’t a weak performer in the cast.

The show centers around the servant Truffaldino, an opportunist who sees the possibilities of double dipping, by hiring himself out to two masters at once, neither of whom knows of his employ with the other. As Truffaldino, “an enigma wrapped up in a conundrum wrapped up idiot,” Andrew Conard exudes charm and devilment. He is especially endearing in his interactions with the audience.

Randi Famula and Dara Yazdani play the lovers Clarice and Silvio, who plan to marry now that they have received word that Clarice’s betrothed, Federigo Rasponi, has been killed in a duel. Famula gives a solid performance as Clarice and is especially good at being incensed. Yazdani has the “rubbery” body of a Ray Bolger, which is so perfect for such physical comedy, while having the haughty pout of Will & Grace’s Sean Hayes.

As Silvio’s father, Dr. Lombardi, Eric Delacorte may be seen as going a bit over the top--but then, in a production like this, can one really go over the top?

Anthony Pinto is both Clarice’s father, Pantalone Dei Biscotti and the manager of the traveling theatre company which is supposedly putting on this farce. He also gives a solid performance and becomes the glue that holds it all--however tenuously--together.

Truffaldino’s two masters are Beatrice Rasponi (Stephanie Rickards), masquerading as her dead brother Federigo, and her lover, Florindo Alfredo (James Henderson), forced to flee Turin after murdering Beatrice’s brother. Neither Beatrice nor Florinda is aware that the other is in Venice, which, of course, sets things up for almost continuous missed opportunities to discover each other.

The set construction crew gets special kudos for building four very solid doors that allow the cast to move in and out and slam the doors behind them without shaking the set. The chaotic meal scene, with Truffaldino attempting to serve both masters, each in a different room, at once was particularly zany.

Zoe Garcia is delightful as the maid Smeraldina, with the bottomless bodice from which she pulls surprising things to toss at the audience or around the stage.

Maddie Ryen is the sardonic innkeeper Brighella, who keeps Beatrice’s secret and tries to keep her inn running smoothly in spite of the insanity that is going on around her.

The supporting cast includes Connor Riley as Eliche (the first waiter), Max McComb as Farfalle (First Porter), and Colin Stack-Troost as Fedelini (Second Porter).

Dancers with the unlikely names of Gnocchetti, Fusili, Rigatoni, Tortellini, Vermicelli and Canneloni are played, respectively, by Karlee Finch, Betsy Raymond, Maia Kazaks, Laurel Cohen, Alicia Hunt and Courtney Siperstein-Cook.

The plot is thin, but irrelevant, and includes silly bits like the prompter for the show being mute and having to give actors lines using charades, and people on the roof of the building with noise makers to provide sound for various lines and actions. There are marvelous alliterative phrases delivered rapid-fire and groaning puns and enough slapstick to keep the little kids in the audience giggling.

Choreographers Jean Marsh, Maia Kazaks and Laurel Cohen have created fun dances as “filler” moments between scenes.

Costumer designer Laurel Cohen presents a colorful picture as one looks at the stage. Truffaldino’s patchwork costume is in the tradition of a commedia dell’arte harlequin.

There was some concern, following last year’s “Two Gentlemen of Varona,” about the future of Acme’s traditional outdoor production. The Art Center’s Outdoor Stage may only be a temporary home, but it has served this production well. Bring a chair, bring a blanket, bring a picnic dinner, and be prepared to spend a couple of hours laughing at this very funny production.

“The Servant of Two Masters” continues only until May 31. Don’t miss it!