Updating Commedia dell' arte: SCT's Servant of Two Masters

Jul 10, 2015

Carlo Goldoni's 18th-century farce "The Servant of Two Masters" is Springfield Contemporary Theatre's latest production.
Credit (Poster design courtesy Springfield Contemporary Theatre)

Springfield Contemporary Theatre reaches back to 18th-century commedia dell' arte for its next production: The Servant of Two Masters by Carlo Goldoni, translated and adapted by Jeffrey Hatcher and Paolo Emilio Landi, to run July 10-26 at SCT Center Stage. 

The production’s director David Rice acknowledges that in one respect—the fact that Goldoni’s farce dates from the 18th century—this is “a departure from what (SCT’s) normal fare is. But when you look at it, it’s a contemporary farce. It’s a play-within-a-play structure; they play they’re doing is The Servant of Two Masters, but it’s a little more contemporary than that.  It’s farce—big, mistaken identify farce.  If there were enough doors there’d be a lot more slamming!”

Says David Rice, “It is irreverent, it is... a little adult.”  Lead actor Bryant Turnage calls Rice on that description—“A little ?!” “Okay, so it’s a lot adult!” “Innuendo, hello!” adds Turnage with a laugh.

Identities are mistaken, engagements are broken, and lovers are reunited in Carlo Goldoni’s commedia dell’arte masterpiece when the wily—and chronically hungry—servant Truffaldino hatches a zany scheme to double his wages (and his meals) by serving two masters at once. A cross between traditional Italian commedia and postmodern vaudeville, this new adaptation of Goldoni’s classic pits the madcap servant Truffaldino against masters, mistresses, lovers, lawyers and twenty-seven plates of meatballs!

David Rice praises one member of the large cast, Jerry-Mac Johnston (who plays Pantalone) as “a past master of commedia (dell’ arte). He’s worked with a commedia troupe up in Seattle, I think, in his younger days.  He’s been a great resource, and he has brought with him a lot of background on the characters, and on the acting style.”

Bryant Turnage describes the lead character, Truffaldino, as “essentially a ‘harlequin’ character, the not-too-bright but clever servant, always trying to find the angle.  And that’s been fun to play with.”

Turnage says it’s also a physically demanding role: imagine a Bob Hope or Woody Allen comedy written by Monty Python and performed with the physical bravura of Chaplin or Keaton.  “Very physical,” he says.  “I think Dave’s actually trying to kill me!” “I am!” chimes in director Rice. 

But it’s all in good fun, according to Rice. “It’s a very funny play—I highly recommend you give us a call, because you’ll enjoy it.

The production opens Friday July 10 and runs through July 26 at SCT Center Stage, corner of Pershing and Robberson downtown.  Showtimes are 7:30pm Fridays and Saturdays and Sundays at 2:00pm.  For information call 831-8001 or visit www.springfieldcontemporarytheatre.org.