Classic Theatre of Maryland’s production of The Servant of Two Masters is a comic romp. Performed outdoors in Reynolds Tavern’s courtyard in downtown Annapolis, Carlo Goldoni’s 18th-century Italian comedy is this summer’s offering for their “Comedy in the Courtyard” series, returning after two years away due to COVID. Directed by Producing Artistic Director Sally Boyett and using a translation/adaptation by Jeffrey Hatcher and Paolo Emilio Landi, it is a fabulous way to start the summer.
Jeffrey Allen Sneed captivates as Truffaldino, the servant of the title, who tries, to much laughter, to work for both masters without either one finding out about the other. He is incredibly physical, whether fainting from hunger or burying his head in a trunk to avoid an irate employer. Watching him in the famous “restaurant scene” is enthralling, as he skillfully moves around the other actors handling plates, trying to discern what food is for which master, while satisfying his own hunger. His attempts to explain his giving wrong letters to his masters, or switching their clothes, are hilarious; “After this, I should go into politics,” he exclaims.
Austin Rubinoski plays Silvio as an angry idiot. When his engagement to Clarice (Maggie Paul) is canceled, he tries to pull out his sword from his scabbard. Maggie Paul gives a fury to Clarice, pouting and shrieking at her father’s new marriage arrangements for her.
Shayna Freedman plays Beatrice with great authority, dressed in male clothing to impersonate her dead brother. As Truffaldino’s first master, she orders him around, yelling at him when he fouls them up; she punishes him comically with a clapper. Justino Brokaw plays Florindo, Truffaldino’s other master, with great severity, upset at not being able to complete his mission. As Dr. Lombardi, Silvio’s father, he gets into a wonderfully funny war of words with Clarice’s father, Pantalone (Dexter Hamlett), the insults growing more heated as it continues. He utters seemingly “wise” sayings with delicious comic timing.
Laura Falcione gives a zest to Smeraldina, Pantalone’s servant. She flirts with Truffaldino, having him remove a letter from her bosom. She leaps about in fear as his secret seems to be revealed. Nancy Krebs plays the innkeeper Brighella with cunning. Knowing Beatrice is not who she claims to be, she stretches out her hand for coins to ensure her silence. Dexter Hamlett plays Pantalone with great excitability. Catching Beatrice and Clarice in a friendly embrace, he begins to plan their wedding.
Costume Designer Sally Boyett has created outfits that feel authentic to the period and help distinguish the characters. Truffaldino wears a red jacket and cap, while Silvio has a brown jacket and black hat. Dr. Lombardi wears a black gown and white wig, walking with a cane. Clarice has a pink dress and white cap, with Beatrice looks imposing in a black jacket and hat.
Boyett does a wonderful job as director, moving the actors constantly around the stage, circling each other or running away. She also uses sound to great comic effect, a musical sting playing whenever an “offstage” character’s name is mentioned, and Smeraldina honks a Harpo Marx–style horn every time Truffaldino utters another character’s name. The comedy is physical as much as intellectual, which the actors perfectly capture with excellent timing and movement.
Although probably not intentional, watching this production, it is hard not to wonder if there is a comic jab at the current economy, in which so many people must work multiple jobs to barely meet basic needs. Audiences can ponder this and enjoy the comedy in the charming setting of Reynold’s Tavern, with great food and drinks. Everything comes together for a delightful summer evening of theater.
Running Time: Approximately 90 minutes, including a 15-minute intermission.
The Servant of Two Masters plays every Tuesday evening through August 30, 2022, presented by Classic Theatre of Maryland performing at the outdoor courtyard of Reynolds Tavern – 7 Church Circle in Annapolis, MD. For information about pre-theater dinner and to purchase tickets ($49–$68), go online.