Hedgerow Theatre’s The Servant of Two Masters Delivers “Timeless Comedy”
Director Aaron Cromie had two major goals when he set out to adapt Carlo Goldoni’s The Servant of Two Masters, now playing at Hedgerow Theatre through June 26. First, he wanted to make the cast laugh out loud at the first read-through, knowing that their enjoyment would be incorporated into their performances, and then passed on to the audience. Second, he hoped to make the 1746 masterpiece accessible to present-day theatergoers.
Critics have universally confirmed that Cromie has succeeded in accomplishing both, saying he “reinvents the genre,” and praising the “broad, boisterous buffoonery,” “winking modern references” and “charming personal feel” of the “timeless comedy” brought to life by a “terrifically comedic cast, whose high energy is simply contagious.”
In writing the original, Goldoni was himself attempting to create a new form of comedy improving the then popular commedia dell’arte, which used improvised dialogue and short scenarios with stock characters and situations. He retained the four main character types, a merchant, a doctor, a knave and a fool, and the typical love triangles and mistaken identities, adding witty, written wordplay to longer, more complete stories.
The play begins at the home of Venetian merchant Pantalone where his daughter Clarice is celebrating her engagement to her beloved Silvio. She was previously betrothed to Federigo, who died while defending his twin sister Beatrice’s honor in a duel with her lover, Floridino. At least that’s what Clarice believes until Beatrice arrives disguised as Federigo, hoping to collect the dowry he was owed. Across town, Florindo has fled to Venice to escape punishment for Federigo’s death. Neither Beatrice or Florindo know the other is there, nor that they’ve both hired the title character, Truffaldino, a servant with an insatiable appetite who take two jobs to get more food. He shuttles back and forth between them, never quite sure which master should receive the various letters, messages, and money he’s given. It all adds up to a series of hilarious misunderstandings until the inevitable happy ending.
Hedgerow’s Producing Artistic Director Jared Reed, who plays Truffaldino, suggested the show to Cromie. “Aaron and I were talking about what we could do with the talents of the company,” Reed recalled, “and what we could create using his talents as well. It came up, with the success of One Man, Two Guvnors (Richard Bean’s acclaimed 2012 update of the play), ‘why not do the original Goldoni?’ We love doing farce. The show is meant to be fun, and meant to be shared and laughed at by all.”
It was a perfect fit for Cromie, who studied at the Dell’Arte International School of Physical Theatre in California and Antonio Fava’s School for Commeda in Reggio Emilia, Italy. “I’ve always had a love of this style,” he explained. “It’s the birth of cartoons: it’s fast-paced, it’s silly, it’s joyful and it’s meant to entertain people, and to celebrate our folly as human beings.”
With Reed on stage is a cast that a reviewer says matches his “mischievous, energetic brilliance.” Hedgerow veterans Zoran Kovcic and Susan Wefel play Pantalone and the innkeeper, Brighella, respectively; Allison Bloechl is Beatrice; Mark Swift i Silvio; Brock D. Vickers ss Florindo; Josh Portera is Dr. Lombardi, Silvio’s father, and also the second waiter and porter; and Shaun Yates, who also designed the set, is the first waiter and porter. They’re joined by guest artists Sarah Knittel as the maid Smeraldina and Madalyn St. John as Clarice.
Adult ticket prices for Friday, Saturday evening and Sunday shows are $34; Thursday and Saturday twilight shows are $29. There is a $3 discount for seniors. Tickets for those 30 and under are $20. For groups of 10 or more, tickets are $18. Members can purchase half-price tickets for all shows. Prices include all fees and are subject to change.
For reservations or more info, call 610-565-4211 or visit www.HedgerowTheatre.org. Hedgerow Theatre is located at 64 Rose Valley Road in Rose Valley (near Media).