This Servant serves up good fun

Hedgerow Theatre’s The Servant of Two Masters’ by Carlo Goldoni

In
2 minute read
Zoran Kovcic, Madalyn St. John, Mark Swift, and Jared Reed. (Photo by Ashley Labonde)
Zoran Kovcic, Madalyn St. John, Mark Swift, and Jared Reed. (Photo by Ashley Labonde)

Good comedy has a timeless quality as Carlo Goldoni's 1746 The Servant of Two Masters at Hedgerow Theatre shows — especially when a clever adaptor-director like Aaron Cromie updates the play with winking modern references.

Goldoni's play comes from the Commedia tradition, in which a plot is fleshed out by actors playing stock characters and improvising their dialogue; a certain freedom comes with the territory.

Great comic performances

Jared Reed, Hedgerow's artistic director, plays Truffaldino, the Harlequin-like title character who contracts himself to two masters. (This play inspired the Broadway hit One Man, Two Guv'nors, so it might sound familiar.) One is Beatrice (Allison Bloechl), disguised as her own late brother, and the other is Florindo (Brock A. Vickers), who was her lover but fled after killing her brother.

Since the brother was betrothed to Clarice (Madalyn St. John), the daughter of Pantalone (Zoran Kovcic), she's forced to give up her true love, Silvio (Mark Swift). Meanwhile, Truffalino captures the romantic attention of Pantalone's maid Smeraldina (Sarah Knittel).

It's not hard to guess which couples will live happily ever after (the answer is D. All of the Above), but the fun is in getting there, which is complicated by Truffaldino's increasingly desperate (and hilarious) attempts to keep his two masters separate. "He speaks as though he's being repeatedly hit in the head with a turkey leg," says innkeeper Brighella (Susan Wefel).

The cast matches Reed in mischievous, energetic brilliance, as when the lovers Clarice and Silvio speak in cloying rhymes to one another and everyone else. Much fun is made of their verbal acrobatics, which they play as spontaneous inventions, until Silvio is shut down when Beatrice asks, "Will you fetch me an orange?"

A setting for comedy

Hedgerow's smart production elevates these dynamic performances. Shaun Yates (also a cast member, as servant and porter) creates a delightfully simple Venetian set with 10 entrances for door-slamming action that allows quick changes and helps makes the restaurant scene — when Truffaldino, despite his own hunger, serves each master simultaneously without either catching on to the other — a comic masterpiece.

Kayla Speedy's costumes match the script's requirements — Smeraldina calls Truffaldino a "patchwork prince" — and more, with colorful sort-of period clothes with modern accents, including Smeraldina's aqua high-top sneakers. Cromie contributes character masks for all but the two pairs of aristocratic lovers, which exaggerate the types they play.

Overall, this brisk, breezy comedy has a charming personal feel, as if the cast and crew had great fun creating The Servant of Two Masters, and enjoy performing it. Maybe that's really what's timeless.

What, When, Where

The Servant of Two Masters. By Carlo Goldoni, Aaron Cromie adapted and directed. Through June 26, 2016 at Hedgerow Theatre, 64 Rose Valley Road, Rose Valley, PA, (610) 565-4211 or hedgerowtheatre.org.

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