BWW Reviews: Seattle Rep's THE SERVANT OF TWO MASTERS Too Much Laughing Can't Breathe!
(Sputter, gasp wheeze) There, I can breathe again. So you know when you go to a show and there's that one actor on stage who is so good, so funny, that the show and the other actors just kind of revolve around them like some theatrical sun warming all in its orbit? OK, now imagine an entire stage filled with that actor and you'll have the Seattle Rep's current production of "The Servant of Two Masters" which kicks off their 51st season not with a bang but with a hearty belly laugh that lasts for two and a half hours.
OK, technically it's Yale Repertory Theatre's production with a little Seattle flavor thrown in. But whatever you call it, director Christopher Bayes' and star Steven Epp's adaptation on Carlo Goldoni's 18th century Commedia dell'arte piece about a dim witted servant, Truffaldino (Epp) caught in the middle of a love rectangle is pure comedy gold. You see Silvio (Eugene Ma) loves Clarice (Adina Verson) but Clarice has been promised to Federigo. But word has come that Federigo has been killed so the lovers may now marry. But when Federigo's sister Beatrice (Liz Wisan) arrives disguised as Federigo in order to collect her brothers debts including Clarice's dowry from her father Pantalone (Allen Gilmore), the lover's plans may be in danger. However Beatrice is in love with Florindo (Jesse J. Perez) who arrives in town while fleeing his home from having just killed Federigo. And Truffaldino who nonsensically signs on as servant to both Beatrice and Florindo only intensifies all this chaos as he is unable to keep his tasks for either master straight.
If you're unfamiliar with Commedia basically think of it as classic Italian romantic comedies with tons of slapstick. Originally done with a lot of improvisation, the show here now has a script but there's still plenty of room left for topical ad-libs and even a few moments where the actors cracked each other up on stage. And director Bayes, who showed off his Commedia chops in Seattle a few years back with "A Doctor in Spite of Himself", once again shows he can twist and bend an aged classic into a vibrant and current gem.As I said the cast is from the comedy gods. Epp manages some genius bits while still keeping the story and the central through line of the show on track. Not an easy task since he's going about 100 miles an hour. I honestly cannot give enough praise to him and his performance as every aspect (physical, vocal, intention, etc.) was high-energy brilliance. Gilmore as well turns in a performance that left me reeling. From his random sputters and wheezes that made perfect sense to his truly amazing several minute attempt to get back on his feet with less than functioning legs, his wonderful antics only added to the joy of the piece. Perez too gave some incredible moments as the swarthy lover. And a lover he is as he managed to infuse every move, step, head turn, look and gesture into spasm inducing sex. And let's not think that the gents get all the fun as the ladies shine as well. Verson's tantrums and giddy love cries are a thing to behold and Wisan, while playing much of the straight man of the piece still lends herself to some amazing comedic bits including a completely silent moment as she ponders a switch on the wall that totally overshadowed any conversation happing on the other side of the stage for me. And I must mention stage musicians Carolyn Boulay and Aaron Halva (who also served as Musical Director) who underscored the show perfectly and hilariously.
I could go on for days about this amazing ensemble including stunning bits from Ma as well as cast members Liam Craig, Julie Briskman, Allen Galli, Scott Ward Abernathy and Trick Danneker but that would keep you from getting you tickets and getting to see this one. And trust me you want to see this one. But have your oxygen masks at the ready, as you may need them from all the laughter. And remember to secure your mask before assisting anyone else with theirs because you wouldn't want to pass out and miss a single minute of this superb show.