The Parson’s Nose experience is always a party and their latest offering of “Servant of Two Masters” is a delightful commedia dell’arte escapade! The Lance Davis adaptation of a Carlo Goldoni play has all the classic elements of Italian street theatre. Clarice loves Silvio and Silvio loves Clarice but Clarice has been betrothed to an old, rich guy, Federigo Rasponi, by her father, Pantalone. Federigo’s sister, Beatrice Aretusi has come to town disguised as her brother in order to find her love, Florindo, who killed her brother and there’s an opportunistic servant, Truffaldino, who manages to become employed by both Florindo and Beatrice as Federigo. You dig? As one might expect, mistaken identities, misunderstandings, utter chaos and hilarity ensue.
The Parson’s Nose company actors have developed such a shared sense of passion and joy for what they do that it literally bursts off the stage and permeates the audience. This piece, in particular, makes terrific use of their tradition of engaging and improvising with the audience members who gleefully play along. The incomparable Jill Rogesheske, playing the loyal and coquettish servant to the young Clarice, flirts with a gentleman in the front row asking if he comes here often to which he shot back, “I will now!” Par for the course with this company as the audience members happily help the characters find props, cheer them on and laugh uproariously.
The young lovers are played with earnest, full bodied desire by the captivating Heather Taylor and the dynamic Stuart Orloff. Their oh so dramatic fathers are played with relish by the affable James Calvert and the magnetic Paul Perri. The lovely Marisa Chandler pulls off the disguised Beatrice with aplomb while John Harnagel brings a put-upon weariness to the pensione proprietor Brighella.
As Florindo, who has a special way of speaking that makes him difficult for some to understand, John Rafter Lee is a master of the physical and creates indelible moments with his curious dance moves and rubbery facial expressions. He’s the perfect match up to the singularly sprightly comedic talent of Lance Davis as the titular servant, Truffaldino, frantically moving between his two masters all while seeking a sandwich. The scene where he is acting as a waiter delivering course after course of food and wine to both masters involves the entire cast and is a veritable feat of stagecraft and precision. The scenes between Lee and Davis as Truffaldino desperately tries to decipher what Florindo is saying are worth the price of the ticket alone.
The Jen Orsini set and Michael Mullen costumes are purposely simple while transporting you to a 16th century street as if you have just gathered round to participate in the goings on. It all makes for a delicious romp that leaves you whip cream and a cherry on top gratified!
Tickets for The Servant of Two Masters range from $20 to $35 and are available online at parsonsnose.org or by calling the Box Office at (626) 403-7667. Parsons Nose Theater is located at 95 North Marengo Ave. (Enter on HOLLY), Pasadena, CA 91101.
Run time: Approximately 80 minutes + intermission with homemade Italian delectables by Pat Bell!