Sammie Joe Kinnett (Truffaldino)
I have been working on our own adaptation of Carlo Goldoni's Servant of Two Masters. I'm not the first to have attempted this. I've looked at 5 different English translations of the play, and each is much more distinct than the different translations I have consulted while constructing our own versions of Chekhov and Ibsen. That's partly because Goldoni was writing something like a very detailed arrangement of a jazz score, but still leaving room for comic invention and improvisation. He was the Duke Ellington of Italian commedia dell'arte. His play was set in his contemporary Venice of 1745, which is no longer quite as familiar to us, so most translations tend to update the play, both in period and in language, while still being firmly anchored in the original. That's we have done too, resetting the play in Venice Beach, California in the 1950's, but remaining quite faithful to the active plot, characters and style.
I've always liked the play, and have seen three excellent and very different productions of it. But as familiar as I have become with it, I never really appreciated its unique greatness until I got into the rehearsal room. And then a remarkable thing happened. Every single one of its 10 scenes jumped immediately into life. Of course this has something to do with our terrific cast--and they are terrific too. But it also has something to do with the play itself. There are very few indelible lines, or scenes of startling invention. Goldoni rarely shows off or calls attention to his genius. Yet every minute of Servant of Two Masters is pure theatre, as if still connected umbilically to the two centuries of comedy it is based in. The play jumps immediately to life. And boy is that fun. The actors are instantly liberated into a world of pure play--into an atmosphere they were born for. I'm not directing so much as trying to keep these fabulous frogs in a wheelbarrow. So what can I say after a week of rehearsal? Well, this joint is jumping. The Servant of Two Masters is as alive as any show I can remember, and alive right from the get go. What a way to feel the pulse of spring!