The Brentwood College senior drama class presents The Servant of Two Masters in the school’s Killy Theatre from April 20-23 starting at 7:30 p.m. nightly.
This play, directed by drama teacher Susan Quinton, is a classical commedia dell’arte farce with lots of action and jokes, ensuring fun for the whole family.
The play was originally written by Carlo Goldoni in 1746 and was revised a few years later into the version known today.
It includes many of the stock characters as well as the plot machinations popular at that time: a woman disguised as a man, a love triangle, and, of course, a clever and greedy servant.
Choosing this play was easy for Quinton.
“The commedia dell’arte was always my first love when I went to the University of Winnipeg. Professor Reg Skene had a troupe of players there. I’ve been wanting to do one of these plays for years. And a Harlequin — the genre’s classic clown — walked into my classroom this fall. He is a born clown. Wait till you see this kid! I’ve never worked with such a natural comic. In directing him, I just have to suggest something and he goes with it, and takes it to a new level of clowning.”
Sight gags and pratfalls are also part of the mix. This is in-your-face comedy. No super-sophisticated talking heads here.
“Oh yes, it’s perfect for adolescent actors. They get it,” Quinton said, adding that theatregoers are going to enjoy the liveliness of it all, too.
“And there’s always room for improvisation, which is exciting for an audience. When something happens, I’ve given the actors leave, as they did in the original commedia dell’ arte, to go ahead. It’s funny, though. Goldoni himself was actually sick of the commedia dell’arte actors of the 16th century. So when the 17th century came along, he started scripting plays. This is one of the first scripted commedia scenarios, outside of Shakespeare, of course. But, on the other hand, he makes Truffaldino — our Harlequin character — juggle food. The comic stage business is completely left up to the actor, which is great fun for the audience, who can see it created afresh every night. We have to choreograph the pratfalls and the slapstick, of course, and it is actually slapstick. He gets bonked over the head! There’s also sword play and disguises. It’s all stuff that came from what they did in theatre on the streets of Italy. The scene where he tries to serve two banquets at once is really like that. It’s literally a running gag because he’s running with meatballs and fricandeau and duck and desserts all going this and that way. The kids have had fun with it,” she said.
Michael Green, who is playing Truffaldino, is delighted with the opportunity. It’s not his first time onstage at Brentwood. He’s performed in The Addams Family this year and in The Boy Friend in 2015.
However, this play is something completely different.
“I’ve always been a sucker for comedy and it’s great to go back to the roots of it all.”
The students are enjoying rehearsing, he said.
“Sometimes we just have to stop rehearsal and get the giggles out. We’re just having so much fun.”
This isn’t just words, either, as Green gets to take part in some real physical comedy as well.
But what he loves most is the freedom.
“Miss Quinton has really given me opportunities. You can take this character and run with it, decide who the character is. It’s really refreshing. Being in The Addams Family I had to stick to what people expected, but in this, he’s more than just a stock character.”
Audiences are going to love all the characters in this show, he said.
Green is a Grade 11 student and is hoping to be in more Brentwood shows next year so fans can watch his talent unfold further.
Showtime is 7:30 p.m. nightly. Tickets are $10 per person. You can get them at the door.