BWW Review: THE SERVANT OF TWO MASTERS at Great River Shakespeare Festival
THE SERVANT OF TWO MASTERS at Great River Shakespeare Festival Shows the Zany Side of an 18th Century Play.
Carlo Goldoni's THE SERVANT OF TWO MASTERS is a piece of Commedia dellarte, an Italian theatrical form dating from the 16th century. Beth Gardiner's adaptive script and direction slices and dices the form's classical elements into a comedic dish that is delightfully fresh. The language is easy, the plot lines elemental, and the characters hilariously juggling any number of ridiculous situations. We have a hapless father trying to marry his daughter off to one man, then another, while the daughter flings herself through ALL the feels. We have a woman dressed as her dead brother searching for the lover who killed her brother in a duel. We have a servant who decides that he has the chops to serve two masters at once - unheard of in 18th century Europe when your master basically owned you - but he declares "I am Truffaldino Battochio from Bergamo!" Now, that's confidence.
Thus the story is launched. The production has a Marx Brothers kind of atmosphere; it does drag a bit at the beginning and the end - perhaps the cast is having so much fun they want it to last! The cast is hilarious; they start the play as a troupe of travelling players deciding what story to tell. They also enlist the help of one audience member to play a character - the person's job is to say either "Yes" or "Humbug" depending on which side of the painted skillet is held up. It's pretty great. Of special mention are Rebecca Bernstein's colorful costumes, which are a delight. And the production is full of physical comedy that works because it is tightly choreographed and performed beautifully by the cast.
Great River Shakespeare Festival veteran Christopher Gerson is very funny as Pantalone, the dad of Clarice, who is played hilariously high maintenance by Gracie Belt. Andrew Carlson and Leah Gabriel are the two lovers searching for each other, Gabriel disguised as a man - both are perfect in their roles. Daniel Stewart is excellent as Clarice's true love , and Victoria Nassif is charming as Brighella, an inn keeper/chef who falls for Truffaldino. But Silas Sellnow as Truffaldino - our title character - is the comedic glue that holds the play together. As the quick-thinking (and very hungry) servant, Sellnow is like a gangly vaudeville comic who has been doing this since time began. His verbal timing, coupled with his stellar physical slapstick, is a joy to watch.
THE SERVANT OF TWO MASTERS runs in rep at the Great River Shakespeare Festival through August 3, 2019. For tickets go to http://grsf.org/box-office/ or call 507.474.7900.
Directed by Beth Gardiner, Scenic Designer R. Eric Stone, Lighting Designer Avery Reagan, Costume Designer Rebecca Bernstein, Sound Designer Katharine Horowitz, Dramaturg Andrew Carlson, Composer Silas Sellnow, Stage Manager Kimberly Carolus, Assistant Director Erica Vannon, Assistant Stage Manager Olivia Pedersen, Properties Supervisor Ivy Thomas, Assistant Costume Designer Kayli Warner, Production Manager Joseph Millett, Fight Choreographer Benjamin Boucvalt, Intimacy Director Tom Ringberg.