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Saturday, May 3, 2014

The Servant of Two Masters

Playwright: Carlo Goldoni

Venue: Dusty Loo Bon Vivant Theatre, 3955 Regent Circle, Colorado Springs CO 80918.
Running Time:  2 hours, 30 minutes (includes 15 minute intermission)
Date of Performance:  Thursday, May 1, 2014 

You know a show is a hit when you go to a midweek performance in mid-run and can hardly find a parking place.  Theatreworks' The Servant of Two Masters packed the house on a weeknight, and for good reason.  Servant is a high energy, laugh out loud romp done with gusto.  It's two and half hours of puns, double entendres, pratfalls, zaniness, and craziness.  
In other words, it's magnificent entertainment.
Director Murray Ross has reimagined Servant, moving Carlo Goldoni's 1745 script to sometime in the 1960's, and setting it in Venice Beach California instead of Venice, Italy.  The update from the city of canals to a SOCAL beach town is marvelous; we have no problem accepting some elitists, a buffoon, and a bevy of  rascals in Southern California.  In fact, they seem perfectly at home there.
The story line and characters are pretty standard for Goldini's time and for the commedia dell'arte tradition.  Without spoiling the fun, the action here revolves around lost lovers, trying to find their way back together again.  Stock characters (devious servants, thwarted lovers, a clown/harlequin, and foolish masters), sometimes in drag, mock, fight, and flirt with each other in a delicate dance of deception and betrayal.
Ross makes great use of Christopher Shely's movable set pieces, using the interior/exterior scene changes for brief musical interludes.  If you're a fan of music of the 1960s, you may remember a tune by the one hit wonders, The Trashmen.  Stand by to be blown away when you hear the Theatreworks version.  The musicians, Dave Weed and Kevin Rodela, wonderfully recreate the music of the 1960s for a script nearly 270 years old.  
Oh.  And who knew there is an accomplished ukelele player (Kevin Rodela) in a place like Colorado Springs?  
Beatrice (Shaundra Noll) & Truffaldino (Sammie Joe Kinnett)
The fun is non-stop as Truffaldino (Sammie Joe Kinnett) tries to serve two masters who each believe that Truffaldino works exclusively for him.  Or her.  Truffaldino gets himself into jam after jam, trying to preserve the charade of serving both while actually serving neither. It's all improbably hysterical.
The cast sparkles, obviously enjoying, and embellishing, the mischief and mayhem in the script.  Ask yourself when the last time was that you heard a joke based on some "spotted dick" and you'll have a sense of what to expect at Servant.  There are also some things you may NOT expect, unless you've seen Gallagher perform with a sledge hammer.  This is some serious slapstick, physical, and cuisine comedy.
Servant requires a capable lead, one who can convincingly, and with charm, sell the unlikely and totally implausible events in the script.  Sammie Joe Kinnett is perfect as the mischievous, lovable glutton Truffaldino.  He attacks his role with relish, gorging on, but still savoring, each and every bit and bite.  In fact, one could say he has a ravenous appetite for his role, from the first aroma of an appetizer to the last scrumptious dessert.
Bob Rais' performance as Colonel Pantalone is a gem; he looks every bit the father, the Colonel, and the master of the house.  It is, however, his particularly memorable musical interlude that nearly brought the house down.  
Michael Lee is a hilarious Silvio, lurking, leering, looming, slouching, and slinking when he isn't literally fighting for his life.  
Shaundra Noll rocks her "Beatrice" costume (knee high black leather boots and a leather jacket), dressed as a man.  It is obvious to the audience that she's in drag; that the other characters can't see her true nature is part of the onstage craziness.  
Eryn Carman's Smeraldina is saucy, sassy, and smart.  She oozes sexual tension, and has the best line the show.  She tells her mistress Clarissa "Men are all bastards, so just pucker up and take your medicine."  Given the male characters onstage with her, she comes off as wiser than all of them put together.
Clarissa (Stephanie Schlis) is central to the plot, and Schlis never deviates from the proper, but distraught socialite betrothed to two men.  Her constant whining about her predicament is a joy to watch.
In what is a relatively small role, Mark Cannon (Waiter) absolutely shines.  He shuffles his way across the stage, making a profound physical statement with every step.  His sense of comedic timing is perfect, which is fortunate.  He might be carried off the stage unconscious if he missed a mark.
Yes...I know.  It is crazy.

The Servant of Two Masters is a rip roaring good time.  An usher told me that the rest of the run is sold out, but they do have a waiting list.  If you can get a ticket, get one.  It's as entertaining and as FUN as comedies get.

NOTES:  
This show is suitable for all ages, although there is some adult content.  There is an attempted suicide scene that may disturb young children. 
Free parking is available at the theater, although the parking lot is posted for campus permits only.  Don't worry; they do not enforce the campus permits during Theatreworks performances.   
Gunshots (not real ones) are used during the performance.  Just so you know.
This show closes on May 11, 2014. 

Pre or post show dining suggestion:  
One of our favorite Mexican restaurants is just minutes from the theater.  Hacienda Colorado, at 5246 N Nevada Avenue, is not just convenient; it's also a sure winner for dinner.  Upscale Mexican, full bar.

Tickets HERE.
Photo Credits:  Theatreworks.

Adapted & Directed by:  Murray Ross
Scenic Design: Christopher L. Shely
Lighting Design:  Lloyd Sobel
Sound Design:  Alex Ruhlin  
Costume Design:  Betty Ross

Cast:
Truffadino:  Sammie Joe Kinnett
Beatrice Rasponi:  Shaundra Noll
Clarissa:  Stephanie Schlis
Pantalone:  Bob Rais
Silvio: Michael Lee
Professor Lombardo:  Logan Ernstthal
Smeraldina:  Eryn Carman
Sal Brig:  Tom Paradise
Macdonald Dick, III:  Max Ferguson
Porter/Waiter:  Steve Wallace
Waiter:  Mark Cannon

Musicians:
Bass/Vocals:  Dave Weed

Ukelele:  Kevin Rodela

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