Review – The Servant of Two Masters at SRJC – by Harry Duke
Silliness and slapstick take the stage of the Burbank Auditorium at Santa Rosa Junior College with their production of The Servant of Two Masters, running now through March 19. The Carlo Goldoni commedia has been around since 1746 and has gone through multiple adaptations since then. It may be most familiar these days as the source material for the Broadway hit and regional theatre staple One Man, Two Guvnors. This production uses the Jeffrey Hatcher and Paoli Emilio Landi version first produced in 1999.
There’s no need to rehash the plot (don’t worry, they rehash it several times within the show to make sure you haven’t missed anything) but it contains such classic elements as a woman masquerading as a man, a foolish father marrying off his spoiled daughter, a pompous father marrying off his idiot son and a duplicitous servant suffering from the constant pang of hunger. Surrounding all of this are wonderful comic bits and terrific physical comedy for which the commedia form is known. In the end, everybody gets who they want, but not without a lot of misunderstandings, complications and a frenzy of activity.
Reed Martin, he of the Reduced Shakespeare Company and their Complete Works/History of (Everything) Abridged, is the perfect choice to direct this piece. The man knows comedy. He keeps things moving at a fast and furious clip, particularly during a delightful extended “dinner” scene where servants and sustenance come sailing across the stage. Martin gives his energetic JC cast such a workout you have to wonder if they don’t qualify for a Phys Ed credit for doing the show.
Chief among those sweating off a few pounds over the course of two hours is Ryan Sayler as Truffaldino, the tricky servant forced into the quick thinking of solutions to the problems his double-dealing creates. Sayler is running, jumping, diving, chasing and being chased so much that in the lobby after the show he looked like he could use an oxygen tank.
The rest of the spirited cast all contribute to the fun and director Martin has insured that all have their moments. One who has several is Brett Mollard, who is quite amusing as a parsimonious parent who’s also a bit of a lech. Michael Temple does well as a man-child suitor with a spine of Jello. Carlos Gallegos, who plays multiple roles, reminded me a lot of Roberto Begnini. His lazzi (comedic bits in commedia) with Haley Rome struck the right balance between humor and pathos. The entire company has fun running around a vivid Peter Crompton-designed set in their colorful Julia Kwitchoff-designed costumes, and their fun is infectious.
Bright, bouncy and often bawdy, SRJC’s The Servant of Two Masters is a well-mounted production of a theatre classic and an example of physical comedy at its finest.
The Servant of Two Masters
presented by the Santa Rosa Junior College Theatre Arts Department
through March 19
Fri, Sat @ 8:00pm, Sat & Sun @ 2pm
Santa Rosa Junior College
1501 Mendocino Ave
Santa Rosa, CA 95401
Photos by Jeff Thomas