Theater review: The Servant of Two Masters

From the August 9, 2012 edition

If you’re in the mood for slapstick, you’re in luck. If you happen to know that the term “slapstick” derives from the prop that made a loud whack when actors in early farces hit each other with them, you might be in even better luck.

That’s because Actors’ Theatre of Columbus is staging a whirlwind of a production of Carlo Goldoni’s “The Servant of Two Masters” in Edward Joseph Dent’s English translation. It’s a play full of mistaken identities that are confusing in summary yet clear in action.

That action centers on the perpetually hungry servant Truffaldino (A. John Beeler), who manages simultaneously to serve two masters. They are lovers searching for each other but kept apart until nearly the end. She is Beatrice (Beth Josephsen), disguised as her brother Federigo, who has just been killed in a duel. He is Florindo (David Warwick), who has fled after being falsely accused of Federigo’s death.

There are other intertwined plots, but “Servant” also holds interest as a historical curiosity. Goldoni wrote it in 1743. At the time, the comic scenes were left open to improvisation by masked stock characters. When “The Servant” was published in 1753, however, Goldoni interpolated his actors’ improvisations. Mozart was so taken with the play that in 1783, he considered making it into a comic opera.

Regardless of whether you agree with Mozart, Actors’ Theatre has taken a solid whack at “The Servant.”

Credit: Dale Bush photo