Faction of Fools’ Missed Connections Is a Laughing Matter

Starting in the early 16th century with touring troupes of masked performers famed for their improvisational abilities, commedia dell’arte laid the foundation for professional theater in the west. While many theater companies pay homage to those roots (see Synetic Theater’s recent adaptation of Carlo Goldani‘s The Servant of Two Masters), Faction of Fools is the only local troupe dedicated to the nearly five hundred-year-old art form. Despite centuries of tradition, the form lends itself to reinvention, which Faction does in its delightful, outdoor production of Missed Connections, the company’s first in-person performance since Francesca Chilcote and Kathryn Zoerb took over as co-artistic directors during the pandemic. 

Maestro Mouchie (Jesse Terrill) walks out from behind the bushes by the gazebo on the former Walter Reed campus, violin in hand. Dressed in a tuxedo jacket over a white tie and vest, with garters and floral-patterned boxer shorts, he takes his seat and begins his solo as the mysterious Croquet Man (Ben Lauer) arrives and sets up his wickets. The comic juxtaposition of an outdoor concert and croquet game sets the mood for Missed Connections.

A series of characters arrive and make their introductions. Ranger Captain Emilio Montoya (Andrew Quilpa), dressed in a park ranger uniform festooned with epaulets, tassels, and a Boy Scout sash complete with merit badges—including an incongruous New Jersey Transit patch (a prime example of how costume designer Lynly Saunders updates commedia’s iconography to our era), lists off the park’s rules. A blue-moon-faced secret agent with a ridiculous French accent, raspberry beret, and a phone concealed in a croissant, named Blackbird (Natalie Cutcher) promises intrigue. @1materialgworl (Desire Lovey Mae) is a social media influencer determined to have the perfect background, lighting, and response when it comes time to livestream the moment her lover proposes.

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