By Marlene S. Gaylinn

Fireflies and butterflies, flying fish, food and funny frolics take the Yale Rep’s audience back to the days when bawdy, Commedia dell’arte was the average person’s form of entertainment.  “The Servant of Two Masters” by Carlo Goldoni (1707-1793) may lack Molier’s cleverness but under the magnificent adaptation by Constance Congdon and direction by Christopher Bayes, we are easily transported the zany, light comedy of the seventeen hundreds.
The play is performed in period costumes and especially made Italian, leather masks identifying the stock characters, which are similar to the paddle-swinging clowns of Punch and Judy puppet shows.   Additional modern dialog and familiar, current references reveal why these silly, improvisations and slap stick pranks have remain the same throughout the centuries.  We still remember The Three Stooges, Milton Berl, and Grocho Marx etc. who are direct descendents of this comedy form and now we have some TV characters behaving in similar ways.   It’s human to laugh at human foibles and unexpected mis-haps as long as we are not the ones being hurt. 

The convoluted plot concerns a father who wishes to marry off his daughter to a suitable man.  There are the usual mismatches and mistaken identities.   During the complicated confusion, a household servant ends up serving two masters at the same time.  As a result, he becomes the object of everyone’s wrath.  Naturally, it all works out in the end but it’s how we get there that provides the humor – some of which is filthy.  While it might have been common during that period to include jokes about private parts and bodily functions, this writer felt the play went a bit too far when it came to tackling the poopy-stuff -- spoiling it for young kids to see the show.

Outstanding was Steven Epp.  As the servant of two masters (Truffaldino) he played his role to the hilt.   The fumbling, tottering father, Allen Gilmore (Pantalone) was constantly delightful and Jesse J. Perez as the jowl-quivering suitor (Florindo) acted just as his name sounded.  The rest of the ensemble and stage crew also deserves high praise.

Marlene Gaylinn is a member of ct critics circle. This article first appeared in "On CT Theatre."

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