Friday, April 5, 2013

Yale Repertory Theatre's "The Servant of Two Masters."

(Part of a series in which I make up for not updating my blog recently.)

As one of Boston's more verbose commedia dell'arte enthusiasts, it was only natural that I was asked to review Yale Repertory Theatre's presentation of Carlo Goldoni's The Servant of Two Masters when their tour brought them to ArtsEmerson this past winter.

As I write in The Arts Fuse:

This inventive adaptation opens with light pouring through a doorway that opens upon a dark stage. Two silhouetted figures enter with flashlights, discover and open two large crates, and then discuss the contents in an Italian grammalot. The pair list off the names of the iconic masks of the commedia dell’arte: Pantalone, Dottore, Brighella, and of course, the eponymous servant, Truffaldino. It as if they are discovering something vital stored away.

Soon after the flashlights become fireflies dancing against a night sky, over a maquette of Venezia. The sun rises over a city square. Under the Paramount’s own proscenium stage stands a much smaller proscenium from which the cast emerges. Katherine Akiko Day’s stage concept brilliantly references the earliest commedia troupes, while Chaun-Chi Chan’s lighting design evokes the blazing sun under which these troupes performed as well as forecasting the arrival of dusk at the story’s end.

Goldoni’s comic gift comes down to a genius for narrative design: he arranges a convoluted story of mistaken identities, disguises, miscommunications, and matters of honor by which true lovers are kept apart and then, as if by clockwork, are finally brought together. Goldoni lacks the poetic gifts and thematic depth of Shakespeare, but the Bard of Avon never plotted so tightly. Goldoni’s plot becomes so complex that he seems compelled to include a recap of the plot for the audience in the final scenes of his comedies.

Note that I also wrote about a modern adaptation of The Servant of Two Masters when I reviewed Richard Bean's One Man, Two Guvnors.

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