“A Servant of Two Masters” is a play filled with dramatic irony, larger-than-life comedic escapades, ridiculous costumes, ludicrous masks and undeniable joy.
Set in Venice, Italy in the 1700s, the play follows a hungry servant, Truffaldino, who tests his abilities to serve two masters at the same time, while attempting to hide it from both of them. His masters are the lovely Beatrice, who pretends to be her dead brother Federigo to acquire her rightful inheritance, as she searches for her lost love, Florindo – who happens to be Truffalindo’s second master.
There’s a point in the show, where Truffalindo looks to the audience and says, “I’m just making this up as I go along!”
That’s kind of how the entire show feels – but in the best way.
According to the show’s director, Stephanie Henderson, “A Servant of Two Masters” is an extension of the theatre format Commedia dell’Arte.
“Commedia dell’Arte began in Italy in the early 16th Century and spread throughout Europe,” Henderson said in the director’s notes. “Commedia is characterized by its use of masks, improvisation, physical comedy and recognizable character types.”
Truffaldino, played by Dallas senior Angel Arguijo, is one of the few characters who wear a mask, a common practice in the Commedia dell’Arte style.
“Truffaldino is like a stock character. It’s always the same type of characters that wear the mask,” Arguijo said. “It was a very different experience because I only had my eyes and mouth to work with instead of my whole facial expressions.”
Well, mask or not, his comedic timing and acting were superb.
Columbus junior Orion Hower, who plays Beatrice, said Arguijo was a great scene partner to work with. The pair had many comedic moments together, which they say were often improvised.
“My favorite part about the play is that every night it does not have to be the same,” Hower said. “There’s no pressure for us to produce any result. We’re literally just up there to have fun with each other.”
The fun they refer to is, in fact, had by all. The characters often talk directly to the audience, relying heavily on asides to create dramatic irony, allowing its viewers to predict what will happen next long before the characters on stage do. The stock-esque characters use the asides to yield a hilarious result.
“Stock characters are not in-depth characters so they don’t require character work but they are very physical characters,” Hower said. “ The philosophy of Commedia dell’Arte is that once you understand the physicality of your character you understand the character.”
The physical comedy of its characters is the best part of this play. Beatrice, when she is disguised as her brother, has insanely funny footwork movements. Truffaldino jumps around constantly on his toes. Brighella, the inn owner, arches their legs and back in a most peculiar way. Florindo runs away from Truffaldino and flails his arms, ever dramatic in his movements.
Seph Cartier, a first-year from Orville, who plays Florindo, said it was a lot of fun to act larger than life and do something “really old and really different.”
This show is absolutely larger than life. The costumes are whimsical, the characters are hilarious – both physically and verbally – and the storyline reveals itself in wonderful ways. While the plot line is not overly complicated, it is constantly surprising and fun.
“Power, money and lust are the center of the action, and it is only a matter of time until the shenanigans are resolved,” Henderson said in the director’s notes. “It is a fast-paced comedy with many of the gags employed hundreds of years ago. Enjoy!!”
Well, Henderson, I enjoyed it thoroughly.