The Servant of Two Masters—Who Needs Words When Choreography Can Do So Much?

Down on his luck Truffaldino (Vato Tsikurishvili) is curled up in a doorway hoping his large frame, dressed in an asymmetrically tailored jacket with diamond-shaped patches on the sleeves, goes unnoticed as he drinks from a flask. It is then he witnesses the aftermath of a crime as a police officer (Delbis Cardona) acrobatically pursues Florindo (Jacob Thompson), a roguish gentleman wearing a yellow skirt that shows off his socks and garters. Soon after, a small, mustached gentleman, who clearly wants to get out of town, passes. Truffaldino offers the stranger a drink and a bite, and finds himself employed to carry the stranger’s bags to Venice. The vast city is represented on Synetic Theater’s stage, courtesy of scenic designer Phil Charlwood, with an ever-moving arrangement of staircases, bridges, and doorways decorated with colorful lozenges and diamond shapes .

It is ironic that commedia dell’arte is so often introduced to theater students through Venetian playwright and librettist Carlo Osvaldo Goldoni’s The Servant of Two Masters, which rejected many of the style’s conventions. For nearly 200 years, Italian comedians relied on masterful improvisation, with only an outline of a scenario written down. Goldoni kept the archetypical cast of characters, the zany situations, and wrote actual scripts. His comedies are known neither for the poetic sophistication of William Shakespeare nor for the social satire of Jean-Baptiste Molière, but his plotting is so intricately convoluted that they are like exquisite clockworks of ruses, scams, mistaken identities, and coincidences, precise even when they seem to be out of control. It’s little surprise, then, that The Servant of Two Masters, first performed in 1746, continues to be adapted and performed to this day. (Richard Bean‘s popular One Man, Two Guvnors is a scene-by-scene adaptation with the action moved to 1960s Brighton and the dueling aristocrats replaced with London gangsters.)

Once in Venice, Truffaldino’s master seeks to finalize his arranged marriage to Clarice (Irene Hamilton), daughter of Pantalone (Philip Fletcher), but she’s in love with Silvio (Pablo Guillen). After a slapstick tango, Clarice’s believed-dead fiancé, Federigo (played by Guillen in a flashback), reveals she’s actually Beatrice (Nutsa Tediashvili), Federigo’s twin sister. Clarice is free to marry Silvio, her true love, but only if she plays along with Beatrice’s plan to collect the dowry and escape with her own lover, the aforementioned Florindo. Meanwhile, Truffaldino falls in love with Pantalone’s servant, Smeraldina (Maryam Najafzada, who also serves as choreographer), and lucks upon a second job with a second master: Florindo. 

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