Chances are you didn’t know that last Friday, Feb 25, was Commedia dell’Arte Day. But even if you missed this important theatrical holiday, don’t worry; you have plenty of chances to celebrate the Commedia by attending Piccolo Theatre’s production of Carlo Goldoni’s “Servant of Two Masters.” An eighteenth-century work that borrows even older archetypes and traditions, “Servant” is a fresh, delightful, and laugh-out-loud funny production.
The clownish servant Truffaldino has put himself in an awkward but potentially lucrative position: he has hired himself out to two separate masters, each of whom is visiting Venice. Since they’re staying at the same inn, his task should be doable, but hilarious mix-ups ensue. Omen Sade performs the role with alacrity and manic charm, juggling (often quite literally) the belongings and commands of his two bosses. The surrounding plot is equally baroque: two sets of lovers, separated by various misunderstandings and disguises, fumble to pair off; two crotchety fathers fight with each other and drool over the coy, clever maid Smeraldina (Vanessa Hughes); and a host of servants and porters struggle to deliver luggage, dinners, and messages to the right parties.
Physical comedy is the order of the day, and director John Szostek has brilliantly coordinated the interactions of a very energetic and acrobatically talented cast. The actors bring the Commedia’s stock characters to life; as the foolish coquette Clarice and the bold, cross-dressed Beatrice, actresses Denita Linnertz and Deborah Craft deserve special mention. Costumes designed by Joshua Allard provide a kaleidoscope of color; the masks (by Antonio Fava) worn by several characters work well, and the wig worn by foppish Silvio (Glenn Proud) threatens to steal the show. In the Piccolo’s tiny space, it all comes together beautifully; on the night I attended, everyone in the audience left grinning ear-to-ear.