Sunday, September 20, 2009

OSF: The Servant of Two Masters

"Comedies don't get standing O's," said my Sweetie, the Official Scorer, as she stood and applauded wildly at the end of The Servant of Two Masters, performed in the Oregon Shakespeare Festival's New Theatre.

This production, directed by Tracy Young, deserved all the huzzahs it received. When the boss decides to stage Servant the eyes of the creative side of the house must light up. It's a chance for the writers to cook up lots of smart, self-referential humor and for the actors to dust off their dancing and musical skills are serve up big, thick slices of ham. The Servant of Two Masters is a laugh riot, and a most welcome one after seeing heavy stuff like Macbeth and Equivocation earlier in the week.

Young and co-adapter Oded Gross do a marvelous job of weaving sly references to the season's other productions and to Ashland locations into the script. They also do a lot with the economy; "budget cuts" are the reason they have a rag-tag collection of costumes and inadequate props.

They key to a successful Servant of Two Masters is a brilliant Truffaldino, and Young has this in Mark Bedard. Bedard is marvelous, and in the performance we saw had a bit more ad-libbing to do than usual, with Gene the chatty audience member and a wayward cell phone that another observer dropped onto the stage. (That's Bedard balancing on his two masters' trunks in the festival photo by Jenny Graham, above at right.)

Usually when I say everyone was great and I don't want to single them out, I end up naming a few, anyway. David Kelly was hilarious as Pantalone, and has a good lip on the trumpet, too. Kelly has proven himself a fine comic actor, also entertaining as Benedick in Much Ado About Nothing earlier in the week. Kjerstine Rose Anderson is a good, flexible ballerina and is one of the funniest actors in the company. Kate Mulligan needed no do-overs; she was a ball of fire playing Beatrice and her own dead brother, Federigo, and set what may be a record for quickest on-stage costume change. Eileen DeSandre was cool as a green-faced, Croc-clad chef Brighella (take that, Mario!) who drew frightened responses that reminded me of Frau Blucher. Elisa Bocanegra was brassy and bawdy--and she winked at me!

OSF has proven adept at staging madcap, silly stuff as well as "serious" theater. The Servant of Two Masters was great fun.

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