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A CurtainUp Berkshires Review

The Servant Of Two Masters
By Shirley Safran

Clown’s success or failure . . . when they discover themselves slipping on banana peels make banana splits.
--- Dan McLeary, Director, Servant of Two Masters

Cranwell Resort

Servant of 2 Masters
Catherine Taylor-Williams, Michael Burnet and David Joseph
(Photo: Kevin Sprague)
Shakespeare & Company’s very free adaptation of Goldoni’s 18th Century take on Commedia dell ‘Arte The Servant of Two Masters is currently rampaging under the Rose Footprint tent on and off the stage, creating barely contained chaos and bedlam. The framing device for the performance involves a troupe of traveling tragedians intent on presenting Hamlet, only to discover that another company very nearby (any guesses?) has beat them to it. Instead, they are forced to make a quick change and present an improvisatory version of the Goldoni play complete with local references (Pittsfield always gets a laugh) and some contemporary political gags which turn out to be rather wan. This is the Berkshires, for goodness sakes—kick some butt!

The plot and characters are all stock commedia themes and types—irate fathers, thwarted lovers, delayed marriages, mistaken identities, disguises, and, of course, the clowns (Bring ‘em in!!) In this incarnation, the main tumult-maker is one Truffaldino, the eponymous servant propelled by manic energy as he tries to juggle (literally) serving two masters, one who’s in male drag, the other a pompous braggart dressed as a member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

The rest of the motley crew includes a Master of the Revels, the hysterical bride and her equally unhinged father, the local madam (channeling Marilyn as a brunette) and the pretty, perky lady’s maid. With this bunch of crazies, does the plot really matter? So let’s just dispense with it and get to the real action which involves breathless entrances and exits executed in double-time, pratfalls, loony non sequitur interjections, juggling everything in sight and much high-pitched squealing and screeching.

Let’s not forget, of course, the audience which is dragooned into participating in the mayhem. The kids love it!

You need not have any knowledge of theater history to realize that these assorted clowns are the progenitors of our most beloved modern comedians, from Chaplin, Keaton, the Three Stooges, the Marx Brothers, to Bill Irwin, whom Michael Burnet, the rubbery, gravity-defying Truffaldino resembles with a quality of sweetness which tempers his anarchic spirit.

While the frantic pace doesn’t always engender belly-laughs, the cast keeps trying to raise nuttiness to ever-dizzying heights. The most successful farceurs are the aforementioned Burnet and Catherine Taylor-Williams, playing her own dead brother in drag (Don’t ask!) But all the others seem to be having the time of their lives.

Part B (in this two-part performance) begins with a 15-minute recap of Part A, so if you can only make one performance, Part B would be the better choice. A condensed, single presentation would have sufficed. Best of all, it’s free of cost and it’s family friendly.

Editor's Note: For a review of a London production of this play go here. The nearby production of Hamlet mentioned above will be posted shortly.

The Servant of Two Masters
By Carlo Goldoni, translated and adapted by Jeffrey Hatcher and Paolo Emilio Landi
Director: Dan McCleary
Cast (The Actors of the Travelling Tragedians Company & the Stock Characters they Play): Master of Revels/ Jeff Newman; Deputy Master of Revels / Jacquelyn Leanna Antonson; Curmudgeon of a Certain Age /Jeffrey Kent; Cross-Dressing Leading Lady/ Catherine Taylor-Williams; Good-Looking Leading Man/ David Joseph; Naughty Supporting Player/ Karen Lee; Reluctant Supporting Player/ Sam Reiff-Pasarew; Our Young Gallant / Grant Haywood; Our Young Lady of Perpetual Despair/ Lydia Barnett-Mulligan; a maid /Julie Webster; a servant / Michael Burnet
Scenic Design & fFght Choreography: Dan McCleary:
Costume Design: Susan Slack
Running Time: Part A is one-hour; Part B is 55 minutes.
Outdoors in the Rose Footprint Theater, Shakespeare & Company, 70 Kemble Street, Lenox, MA. 413-637-3353
Part of free
Part One is performed on Wednesdays at 6:15 and Saturdays at 1:15; Part Two is performed on Fridays and Saturdays at 6:15.
June 23 2006 to August 26, 2006.
Tickets: FREE Outdoor Bankside Festival, but tickets are necessary and available through the box office.

Reviewed by Shirley Safran based on July 5th and 7th performances

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