BWW Reviews: Theatreworks' SERVANT OF TWO MASTERS Delivers Comedy on a Silver Platter
Just how much comedy is packed into the Theatreworks' production of The Servant of Two Masters? Even the scene changes-which are carried out by a pair of beach bums in matching American flag print Speedos and accompanied by interpretations of surf-rock classics-are funny.
After a season that has brought us weightier fare like modern tragedy Death of a Salesman, the haunting The Weir, and the provocatively erotic Venus in Fur, Murray Ross' adaptation of Carlo Goldoni's commedia dell'arte farce is a frothy, delicious desert at the close of a rich, complex banquet. Ross sets the action in Venice Beach of the 1950s, a sunny, cotton candy-color world embodied by Christopher L. Sheley's cartoon-like set. The location is mainly cosmetic, as is much of Goldoni's plot, which serves as an excuse to throw the stock commedia characters (young lovers, pompous patriarchs, and comical servants) into nonsense. But the high-energy cast proves that good humor, when told well, is timeless.
At the center of the chaos is Sammie Joe Kinnet's hilariously id-driven Truffaldino, a clown among clowns who sets the plot spinning and then struggles to hang on for the ride. He arrives on the scene to announce his master, Federigo Rasponi-an act that causes no small consternation, since Federigo has been presumed dead. Indeed, his intended bride Clarissa (Stephanie Schlis) has already promised her hand to her preferred suitor Silvio (Michael Lee). While Clarissa's father Pantalone (Rob Reis) tries to sort the matter out, Truffaldino's quest for better pay and more meals leads him to take a second position with the unfortunately-named Macdonald Dick, III (Max Ferguson, embodying exactly what you'd expect a guy named Macdonald Dick, III to be like). Dick was the man who mortally wounded Federigo in a dispute over the latter's sister Beatrice (Shaundra Noll), who unbeknownst to the others has disguised herself as her brother in order to claim her inheritance. ("It's like Shakespeare," Truffaldino helpfully explains as the complications reach their crisis point.)
Goldoni wrote The Servant of Two Masters as a vehicle for clown Antonio Sacchi, so Kinnet is front and center through the majority of the play's comedy and carries it with both style and endearing charm. He turns the simple act of stuffing an envelope into a comedic exercise and delivers a masterpiece of physical comedy in the play's best sequence, where Truffaldino races to serve diner to his two employers. With Truffaldino so prominent, it's perhaps to be expected that the rest of the cast tends to fade into the background, but occasionally moments of brilliance flash through. Schlis and Lee are a sweet pair of passionate, naïve lovers as Clarissa and Silvio (imagined in this setting as a high-strung teenybopper and a hot-tempered beatnik, respectively). Logan Ernsthal is perfectly pompous as Silvio's Latin-spouting academic father, and Eryn Carman is entertaining as the saucy maid who gets Truffaldino's mind on something other than food for a change.
Servant has been revisited before (the recent British play One Man, Two Guvnors similarly brought the story into the 20th century), and it's likely it will be again, but it's hard to imagine it being funnier than this.
THE SERVANT OF TWO MASTERS plays at the Dusty Loo Bon Vivant Theater now through May 11th, Thursday through Saturday at 7:30, Sundays at 4pm, and Saturday matinees May 3rd and 10th at 2pm. For tickets, call 719-255-3232 or visit theatreworkscs.org.
PHOTO CREDIT: Isaiah Downing
Sammie Joe Kinnett, Shaundra Noll
Sammie Joe Kinnett
Eryn Carman, Sammie Joe Kinnett