Friday, April 20, 2018

The Servant of Two Masters

Last night, I saw a delightful college production of Carlo Goldoni's commedia dell'arte-inspired play The Servant of Two Masters.

Goldoni originally wrote the play for Antonio Sacco, an actor who specialized in Arlecchino-style roles, often appearing under the name Truffaldino, as he did in Goldoni's play.

Though Goldoni chaffed under what he considered to be the constraints of commedia, he included a number of the form's stock characters. The father of the young lover Clarice is Pantalone, the stingy old man. He, in turn, has engaged his daughter to the son of Dr. Lombardi, who is based on the Il Dottore character in commedia.

One of the most memorable characters in the play is the innkeeper Brighella, who is also based on a commedia type, though he is less violent than he usually is in commedia. Truffaldino, of course, must have his own love interest, and Goldoni gives him the servant Smeraldina, based on the Columbina of commedia.

Though The Servant of Two Masters is the most famous play Goldoni wrote for Sacco, it was not the only one. He had previously written Truffaldino's 32 Mishaps, and would go on to write Truffaldino's Son Lost and Found.

Goldoni's rival Carlo Gozzi also used Sacco in his Truffaldino character, most famously in The King Stag, which also includes Pantalone, Clarice, Smeraldina, and the Captain Spavento character from commedia, promoted to being a general this time.

Commedia characters are frequently portrayed in miniatures and prints, but it's also nice to see them where they belong: on the stage!