This is director and adaptor Aaron Cromie’s Director’s Note for the current production of “The Servant of Two Masters.” With four performances left, we wanted to share his words with you.
Welcome to Hedgerow’s premiere adaptation of Carlo Goldoni’s The Servant of Two Masters (1746), a play that has had multiple versions and permutations over the past few hundred years, from the Italian stage to Russian screen and is considered one of the great classic comedies (most recently Broadway’s One Man, Two Guvnors – British Music Hall interpretation).
The characters of this play were born into the Italian Renaissance theatre style of Commedia Dell’Arte (roughly translated as the ‘craft’ of comedy), a highly broad and comedic theatrical style – a precursor to vaudeville, burlesque and Saturday morning cartoons (our hero, Truffaldino, is remarkably similar to Bugs Bunny).
In classic Commedia tradition, actors portray stock characters (often wearing a mask) as the performing company plays off of improvised scenarios, called a canovaccio, each with a very basic plot, replete with wordplay, physical comedy, and slapstick, called lazzi.
Goldoni was a fan of Commedia but felt that its practice of utilizing strictly improvisation as a means of performing had become stilted and predictable. He wished to create a more curated version of the dialogue – built around the skills of the actors he was for which he was composing to showcase his own skills as writer. Where it was once completely improvised, Goldoni’s version of the story became a large step in the uncharted world of the Italian scripted play. It was a huge success.
Similarly to Goldoni’s approach, I’ve tried adapt this script for the strengths of Hedgerow’s performers, which lie primarily in word play, comic folly and straight up silliness.
Long before we ever met, I had the pleasure of seeing Jared Reed perform in Stephen Wadsworth’s Marivaux adaptation of The Game of Love and Chance at Princeton’s McCarter Theatre and knew he had the comic chops to lead our production.
We spent much of our rehearsal period revising the adaptation to include the many things that made us laugh along the way. What you see is a culmination of contributions from the cast and stage management and myself, in what we hope is a wonderful evening of laughter for you all. Enjoy!