My day off of drudgery is off to a smooth start so far, with breakfast at the Wellington Diner, and company from the fabulous Jackie Brabazon herself, yay! And here I was dreading Valentine’s Day, but so far it’s pretty painless, my Carleton Tavern hangover notwithstanding. But of course, it’s not all fun and games as I have all this writing to do that you’re reading right now, which is weird to think about. But no worries…what I have to write about pretty much IS all fun and games, and that’s a very good thing.
Last night, to get things started, was the kick-off night for the new season of theatre from Algonquin College, about which I was very excited indeed. It had been too long, and the first show in their 3-show season sounded like a helluva lotta fun. Director-in-demand Catriona Leger (whose LADIES OF THE LAKE is still running in the GCTC studio as part of Undercurrents) was at the helm for Carlo Goldoni’s Commedia classic THE SERVANT OF TWO MASTERS, featuring a cast stocked with the Gonq’s newest and brightest. It was to be a daunting challenge…Catriona knows the challenges presented by Commedia Dell’Arte, and says it requires the ‘discipline of a good student and the spirit of a naughty student’. From the results, I’d say she got both in spades.
Centering around a cast of classic Commedia characters, SERVANT brings us to 18th century Venice (courtesy of lovely Judith deBoer set and costumes), where some merrily confused mayhem is about to get underway. A wedding is about to take place, between dreamy-eyed lovers Clarice and Silvio (Shanon Collins and Jean-Luc Carrie), under the careful gaze of their fathers Pantalone and Dr.Lombardi (Jenna Brown and Curtis Kupkee). Trouble hits when Clarice’s first intended husband, Federigo Rasponi, believed dead, shows up in town very much alive and looking to collect monies from Pantalone. Only ‘Federigo’ is, in actuality, his twin sister Beatrice (Melanie Grant) in disguise. She’s also looking for the man who killed her brother, the well-coiffed Florindo Aretusi (Jonah Lerner), but not for revenge…they’re in love, see, which is what led to the unfortunate dispute between Florindo and Federigo. Beatrice has brought along a new servant, the eternally hungry Truffaldino (Ryan Nadon) who stumbles upon a nifty scheme to make some extra coin, by finding a second master to serve at the same time. As fate would have it, his second master turns out to be none other than Florindo, which leads to the expected chaos.
Making extensive use of some sweet masks (
I think on loan from Odyssey Theatre, someone correct me if I’m wrong…ETA: Someone corrected me! Catriona sez the masks actually belong to Algonquin College, and came from Montreal mask makers Atelier Pirate), SERVANT is a deliciously fun farce of a show. Director Leger has coached her gang well, playing with the script and the audience alike to great effect. Several off-book asides are included, as in an early audience quiz on the byzantine plot from Amanda Rickets as Smeraldina the maid, giving the fourth wall the good, swift kick in the nuts it so richly deserves. But the cast does great with the verbally dense and broadly comic script, including more than a fair share of tongue twisters that would intimidate even the most seasoned of actors. Melanie Grant as the cross-dressing Beatrice has a great presence on the stage, making for a very engaging hero/heroine indeed. Jonah Lerner is all bombast and wig as the loudmouth Florindo, and always fun to watch, as is Shannon Collin’s hyper-emotional Clarice. Great mask and body work abounds, most notably from Jenna Brown as the perpetually stooped Pantalone, Curtis Kupkee’s grimacing Doc Lombardi, and Souness Rathedi as the seemingly all-knowing innkeeper Brighella. But it all comes down to the Harlequin himself, Truffaldino, and that works out just fine, because it would appear Ryan Nadon was positively made for this kind of work. His cowardly, tricksterish clown is always moving, always funny and always spot-on, and in tandem with the rest of the great cast helps put the lie to the ghetto term ‘student theatre’. Even the wordless Muffeletta, played by Jessica Said, is terrific (and hats off too to the ‘porters’ David Hania and Benoit Lavalee, doing the bulk of the heavy lifting and plate-tossing in the show).
This is a show you really want to clear a spot on your calendar for, people. Seriously playful, and an amazing spotlight on new talent to watch out for. The show runs nightly until Saturday, with a 2pm matinee on Sunday in the theatre arts building N on Algonquin Campus. Only ten bucks, and I can definitely recommend the Smore cookies at halftime, if you can nab one fast enough. Yummy! Peace, love and soul,
Kevin Reid, the Visitor (and Winston)