Photo. Barb Gray/Zack Counsil as Brighella and Sean Sullivan as Pantalone.
This rollicking production of Carlo Goldoni’s The Servant of Two Masters , under the direction of Andy Massingham is intended to bring us back thirty years when Ottawa’s Odyssey Theatre Company first introduced Commedia dell’arte to the capital. This is in fact the same play but it isn’t the same production and that is the great lesson Massingham has taught us this time : adapting a play does not necessarily mean imitating slavishly the original text, the original style and the original way of performing the event. The question becomes therefore, when is a play no longer the play we thought we were watching?
I came across a similar dilemma this year with Dostoevsky’s The Double performed and directed by Adam Paolozza at the NAC, not because it was badly performed but because it had nothing to do with Dostoevsky’s novel except for some of the situations and some quotes from the original text that always appeared to be taken out of context. The problem was that Paolozza turned Dostoevsky’s disturbing book about paranoia into a clown show but the Russian protagonist is not a clown. He is going out of his mind in a nightmarish adventure . Thus the Toronto Company might have advertised their version of the Double as a play “loosely inspired by The Double”. As it was, their show was a serious misrepresentation of the Russian writer’s work and one could guess that Paolozza, who is interested in corporeal theatre, appeared to be using the text as a crutch for his own brilliant comic stage work that seemed to give little thought to the original narrative or characterization.
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Photo: Barb Gray. Zack Counsil (Brighella) et Jesse Buck (Truffaldino)
La compagnie Odyssey qui fait revivre le théâtre de la Commedia dell’arte au Canada anglophone depuis trente ans, remonte aux sources de la troupe en présentant cette nouvelle version de Le serviteur de deux maîtres de Carlo Goldoni.
L’intrigue et les sous intrigues sont d’une grande complexité. Truffaldino, le serviteur du titre, est au service de Florindo, l’amant de Béatrice, et de Federigo le frère de Béatrice. Tout se complique lorsque nous apprenons que Clairice (la fille de Pantalone) qui aime Silvio (le fils du Docteur Lombardi) est promise à Frederigo , le fiancé décédé depuis longtemps. Celui qui se présente à sa place est sa sœur Beatrice travestie , ce qui ajoute du piquant aux relations tempétueuses qui bouleversent ce microcosme de la société vénitienne. Le tout devient rapidement une accumulation de malentendus, de jeux d’identités, et d’intrigues secrets. Truffaldino qui a juré de respecter l’anonymat de ses deux employeurs, provoquent des rencontres spectaculaires, rocambolesques, chaotiques qui frôlent la farce la plus pure. Le rythme de ces orchestrations physiques qui font courir les serviteurs, les maîtres et tout le personnel de l’hôtel, coupent le souffle, surtout lorsque Zack Counsil (Brighella) s’envole avec la legerete d’une plume. Le masque a fait vivre son personnage! Une belle prestance .
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First published on: July 22, 2016 in the Ottawa Citizen.
Zach Council and Sean Sullivan from Odyssey Theatre perform for the media at Strathcona Park in Ottawa Friday July 15, 2016. Odyssey Theatre is performing The Servant of Two Masters by Carlo Goldoni, directed by Andy Massingham. at Strathcona Park from July 21 to August 21. Photo: Tony Caldwell
You’d be hard-pressed to find profound insights in it, but Odyssey Theatre’s production of Carlo Goldoni’s 1745 comedy The Servant of Two Masters sure is fun.
Jesse Buck plays the titular servant Truffaldino, a wily and perennially famished fellow who lands himself in the absurd situation of serving two masters at once. One of them is the stylish, self-admiring Florindo (Joshua Wiles). The other is Beatrice (Sarah Finn) who is Florindo’s lover and has come to Venice to be with him. Except Beatrice is disguised as her pompadour-proud brother Federigo. And Federigo is actually dead, killed by Florindo. Beatrice, meanwhile, is owed money by a wealthy miser, whose daughter …
You see where this is going, right? Down the rabbit hole of a plot so deliciously convoluted that to summarize it would leave your head spinning faster than governor Chris Christie trying to defend Melania Trump’s plagiarized convention speech earlier this week.
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Photo: Barb Gray.Servant of Two Masters by Carlo Goldoni. Directed by Andy Massingham. An Odyssey Theatre production
Almost as a rule, plays start slowly and develop into something interesting as the story unfolds. Fortunately, director Andy Massingham forgot all about this, and instead made “The Servants of Two Masters” intriguing, engaging, and funny from the first second. The play starts with the characters presenting themselves. One by one, they come dancing on the stage, promising an evening under the stars (and sporadic rain) full of fun and delight. Odyssey Theatre premiered its “Theatre Under Stars” production with the adaptation of Carlo Goldoni’s best known comic play, giving it a more contemporary twist (the play is set in late fifties), and so proving the old art form of commedia dell’arte to be timeless.
Of course, in commedia dell’arte, the narrative itself is not the center of attention. The outline of the story and characters is always a simple tale about love, error, and deception. In this case, a young couple, Clarice (based on Isabella) and Silvio (based on Flavio), celebrate their engagement, when Truffaldino (based on Arlecchino) enters and announces that he has come with his master Federigo, Clarice’s former fiancé who was presumably dead. While Clarice tries to whimper her way out of her predicament, hot headed Silvio to fight it, master Federigo (in reality Beatrice disguised as her brother) attempts to get his hands on Pantalone’s (Clarica’s father’s) money. Florindo Aretusi (in love with Beatrice) comes looking for his love. Sly and capable Truffaldino (who has no idea that his master is a woman) seizes the opportunity to double his income. Now as a servant of two masters (Beatrice and Florindo) he juggles his duties masterfully, except for a few unfortunate errors, which lead to unexpected and hilarious developments.
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